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The UnPopular Opinion: Insidious

07.25.2012

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THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

**** SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****


Note:
today's entry is all about endings.  SO - HERE BE MAJOR SPOILERS. 
2nd Note: this entry applies to THE CRAZIES as well. In fact, you can consider this review a discussion of the two.

And one last time - SPOILERS!

Okay.  INSIDIOUS is terrifying.  Easily one of the scariest movies I've seen in years, something genuinely frightening instead of being merely gross or discomfiting.  It's unapologetic, balls to the wall, outright horror.  And while THE CRAZIES isn't nearly as haunting, it was still successful on the scare front and an exhilarating adventure to boot.  And for 99% of the time I was completely sold on every element these two movies peddled.  The acting, scares, makeup effects, story progression, very human characters, ohesion of technical camera work with sound design - all of what makes horror stories effective both as horror and as stories was there in spades.

And then the last thirty seconds happened, that final 1%, and it was all flushed away.  Because I loathe, I absolutely hate, the endings of these two movies.  INSIDIOUS especially.  What happens in each film's final moment completely ruins for me the entire experience.  Those final moments singlehandedly ruined my enjoyment of these movies, and so when the credits rolled I was left raging at my televesion.  That rage eventualy gave way to sadness, and so I here I am.

Insidious UnPop 2

"But there are other entities who are malevolent and have a more insidious agenda. And then there's this... A demon who seeks Dalton's body for one reason - to cause pain to others."

In INSIDIOUS, the ending that just kills it for me (in the worst of ways) is how Patrick Wilson's character goes into The Further, endures some truly terrifying shit there, and brings his son back after an entire film's worth of unrelenting tension build-up.  On his way back he decides, despite being warned otherwise, to confront the particular entity (pictured below) that has haunted him his whole life.  The film implies he succeeds in defeating it, only in the last moment to reveal that he is now in fact possessed and has been transformed on an inner level into a being of hate and pain and sorrow.  And that's it.  THE CRAZIES delivers something similar, with the main characters struggling through the the violent loss of friends and family and a psychologically rending journey.  At last only two are left, and they are finally free to make their way to the nearest big city (he place they and their friends fought to reach through most of the film).  And as they walk towards it, the camera zooms out to reveal that everything they just survived is waiting for them anew in the city that they (and we) had come to believe was a safe haven at the end of their suffering.

Clive Barker, a master of both horror and storytelling if there ever was one, had this to say about the balance of darkness and light in the context of his exploration of horror:  "I think what I'm trying to do constantly is when I have these kind of journeys into empowerment, is that there is always a price for that empowerment. You have to grasp something very painful, you have to have to open yourself up to very painful experiences... The world is full of hurt. People die, people leave, the world changes radically, unpredictably; things that we love finish, things that we hate begin. The experience of the world from an early age is primarily, I think an experience of loss and pain and despair. In order to heal those feelings paradoxically you have to put yourself up to them.
.. My books are very often 'Look it's okay to be wounded, it's okay to be imperfect but be aware that the wound should not just be suffered, it should be used. It should be a way to become the richer, more loving more constructive more articulate human being."

Insidious UnPop 3

Even with my opinion INSIDIOUS being what it is, nobody will ever hear me deny that this woman is one of the most terrifying visions put on film f***ing EVER.

Now that's his subjective personal preference.  One which I happen to share, not just for the sake of this article but in my life as a general rule.  Horrors should not just be suffered, borne until they bury you.  There must be more, else why tell the story at all? Yes, I understand that things don't always work out so peachy in this life - sometimes the nastiest of monsters win, and not a single soul or shaft of light escapes.  But, IN MY OPINION, that's just not the kind of story that interests me.  I watch horror movies to confront the terrible questions and terrifying fears that lurk beneath the surface of the world and the skin of human beings, but I also watch such movies to see that terror transcended.  Maybe I watch them on the surface for the thrill of the fear, but on a sub-level I'm watching to reassure myself that there is hope.  That we do have it within us to be strong enough to withstand whatever may attempt to tear us down and rip us apart.  The other kind of story isn't interesting to me.

I believe that horror is the single most effective way to discover, explore, and explain how we should function in this world.  The supernatural removes us as audience members just enough to have a slightly objective distance, but also speaks to fears so deeply rooted that we can't help but hook in emotionally.  That's where the power of horror lies.  So when I sit down to watch a horror movie, I'm giving myself over to this story in the hope that it will give me the opportunity to face what I most fear and survive the encounter.  The idea is then that I might, in the course of that journey, discover things about myself and the world that I had not known before, and so learn better how to live in it.  By walking in the darkess I learn to know the light, and what I learned sticks with me all the more because of the journey I travelled.

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"Don't ask me why I can't leave without my wife and I won't ask you why you can."

The thing is, the kind of horror that I personally enjoy is never just about being scary.  If that's the case, then I'm not interested.  I'm not a thrill seeker necessarily - as I've stressed over and over in this column already, my interest lies elsewhere in the realm of horror's possibility. As I read in a great editorial about the Academy having a double standard when it comes to rewarding/acknowledging horror movies, "Horror is not just about vampires and ghosts and ghouls, it's about confronting the darkest aspects of life, whether it be the boulder sitting on your hand or the regret for all of the heartache you've caused." That's where the teaching can come in.  And stories change us by teaching us, whether it be bluntly or subconsciously - either way they affect us and either way they transform us.  And if they aren't interested in doing so, then I'm not interested in them.

My response to endings such as those found in INSIDIOUS and THE CRAZIES is that I feel as though they have shit on everything I as a viewer and as an emotional participant in this story just went through.  To me it's disrespectful, it's dishonorable, and it's downright pointless.  And so I don't enjoy the experience.  But that's my opinion and preference, two things to which I believe I am entitled without necessarily changing what you think.  As such stories like INSIDIOUS and THE CRAZIES, while well-crafted, are just not for me.  You, however, are of course allowed to enjoy them all you want.  And if you do, then I wish you well.

The Crazies UnPop 2

"Do you wanna give up? You wanna sit here and die, tell me, and I will sit here and die with you."

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to ajstepenberg@joblo.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!

Extra Tidbit: While attending the Toronto International Film Festival, writer/actor Leigh Whannell mentioned that during the writing process he kept a list of horror movie clichés on hand at all times so that he could then make sure to avoid them. The first (and most prominent) of these was to have the family move into a new house as soon as the haunting began.

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