Sunday, April 3, 2011

Inspiringly Insidious

With few exceptions, I am not a fan of the horror genre. Oftentimes it seems to be going for cheap thrills rather than truly entertaining an audience and keeping them on their toes. (For every The Exorcist or the original Nightmare on Elm Street, you get a Final Destination or remake of Nightmare on Elm Street.) So color me totally surprised when I tell you that I loved Insidious not just as a great movie-going experience (though the truly fantastic crowd did make it better), but as a movie individually. One of the best horror films I've ever seen, and I don't give out such hyperbolic praise lightly.

Sure, the premise is a little silly--a boy is being haunted and his mother is seeing the demons hunting him. His father doesn't believe the explanation: his soul is separated from his body and is lost in something called the Further (this movie's substitute for hell). But despite the lame plot, it's explained quite well and never feels like it's pandering to the audience. The dialogue feels natural--if such a bizarre event was occurring in reality, people would behave like this. Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson are particularly good--they're more than your typical horror film final girl and guy. The supporting cast is solid as well, especially the ghostbusting team that arrives in the third act, but Wilson's on-screen mother, the great Barbara Hershey, looks a little lost here, perhaps wondering why she chose this as a follow-up project to Black Swan. (It kinda kills her comeback momentum, no?)

The direction is top-notch: James Wan is doing his best work since the original Saw. The film isn't afraid of throwing multiple twists and spooks at the audience in quick succession--if you're freaked out, so be it. They're not taking it easy on you. It gets to the point where several members of my theater's audience were reacting to completely normal shots, like one of the house, but that was the tone of the film: fear around every corner. The cinematography is unique and seems like a good intersection between the "found footage" style of Paranormal Activity or Cloverfield and straight-up cinematography.

It's a shame the film loses itself in the mythology too much near the end of the film--it seems like at least one major scene could have been cut without the story suffering. Without that drag, this would have been a near-masterpiece horror film. As is, it's merely very good and can scare the living daylights out of you. B+

By the way, if you haven't seen the trailer for Guillermo del Toro's Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, which plays before this film, check it out, but make sure to full-screen it for full effect. And leave any comments in, y'know, the comments section!


Simon said...

This movie was badass awesome, and I don't care who knows it.

Anonymous said...

The ending leaves couple of questions!