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Capone finds James Wan's INSIDIOUS a great throwback scare film!!!

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.

If I've learned anything after my decades of watching thousands of horror films, it's that the lineage of a horror film (who directed it, produced it, wrote it, stars in it) doesn't mean shit. Sometimes it does, but most times it doesn't. So when I see the guy who directed PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (a film I love deeply) listed as a producer on INSIDIOUS, I shrug and say, "Show me the damn movie." When I see director James Wan or writer Leigh Whannell (who made the original SAW) listed as the director-writer team on INSIDIOUS, I say, "Show me the damn movie." So, I saw the damn movie, and guess what: it scared the crap out of me. It also made me laugh, and it impressed me that stars (and fine actors) Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne sold me on the heightened drama of this story of a child who is in danger of people possessed by a nasty demon.

INSIDIOUS starts out as a haunted house film. Josh and Renai Lambert move into a new home, and immediately ghostly things start happening--doors open and close, things get knocked over, and noises come from every dark corner. Things get so bad that the Lamberts decide to move. I can't remember another film where a family actually moves out of what they believe to be a haunted house in the first 40 minutes or so. But in the new house, the same things start happening, and before long their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) is attacked by something in the house. He seems okay, until he lands up in the hospital in something that is coma-like, but not actually a coma. The family eventually moves Dalton back home, where he lays in bed while all hell breaks loose around him.

Eventually Josh's mother (Barbara Hershey) calls on old friend Elise (the great Lin Shaye), who tells the rattled couple that it isn't the house that is haunted; it's their son, around whom a red-faced demon is swarming, preparing to take over the boy's soul. Before I dive into the film's last big set piece, I want to say that INSIDIOUS has more scares than any movie I can think of in recent memory. Yes, it borrows heavily from POLTERGEIST, but it's films like that that Wan and Whannell were influenced by growing up, so that doesn't surprise me. And I'd rather have filmmakers pay homage to their favorite films in this manner than simply produce a substandard remake.

There's a sequence in which Josh must pass into a kind of altered state to save his son, and without giving too much away, these scenes--for whatever reason--have divided people's response to the film pretty much down the middle. When I first saw the movies, without knowing anything about it, I saw these scenes as an homage to the old Hammer Films movies--most of which didn't have big budgets, but they had heart and dry-ice machines for days. You might laugh at this sequence--I probably did--but for a movie that goes to such great lengths to look so good, I doubt the filmmakers decided to switch over to a slightly cheaper version of their movie without cause. The setting is supposed to look stripped down and bare; I think the "cheapness" of the look is intentional.

A big part of the reason INSIDIOUS works so well is its actors. Byrne and Wilson sold me on the terror. They are quality actors, and in lesser hands, I don't think the movie works--no offense to the filmmakers. I also happen to be a big Lin Shaye fan, and to see her get a role this juicy and see her play it straight just warms my heart. There's a sequence in which she stares into a black pool on the ceiling and whispers a description to one of her research assistants (played by Whannell) what she sees. It's an absolutely terrifying sequence, made all the more effective just because of the look on Shaye's face.

Wan is in top form here. Saw was about creativity and gore, and it worked on both levels. But INSIDIOUS is about good, old-fashioned fear, and try as I might to avoid jumping and screaming like an eight year old, I was tense for nearly the entire movie. I actually couldn't believe how anxious I was watching this film. And it's a largely bloodless affair to boot, so it's the perfect date movie. And yes, it's PG-13, but don't let that scare you away. INSIDIOUS truly surprised me, and I was glad to see that this talented group of folks got together and made a scare movie that actually matters, at a time when such films are getting increasingly lazy when it comes to being actually scary. Well done.

-- Capone
capone@aintitcool.com
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  • April 1, 2011, 11:22 a.m. CST

    A scary movie that may actually be scary?

    by Ryan

    You have my interest...

  • I. The Terrible Trio and "The Kobe Project" CHOPPAH has learned, through sources anonymous and hidden, that Mr. Beaks, Nordling and Devin Faraci have been running a long game, using sock puppets to infiltrate and provoke talkbackers into ban-nable offenses to illustrate how Harry has lost control of his site and to purge any malcontents. It's all to usurp Harry, whom they view as a corpulent geek version of King Lear entering his dotage, and assume control of his site, his resources, and connections to turn AICN into perfectly functioning site with police-state-like talkbacks that would increase their personal wealth by whoring itself out to the studios. "It's obvious that Harry uses the site to get 'pweasants' from his studio buddies," one of my sources tells me. "But AICN still has its shaggy-dog, shambling charms. Beaks, Faraci and Nordling have been conspiring to turn the site into a pure revenue-generating machine." Their legion of sock puppets includes: JettL93, lowes forehead girl, chickengeorge, viggeo_morgenstein, william_faulkner and their oldest, most brilliant creation: hey_kobe_tell_me_how_my_ass_tastes, a churlish, thuggish reflection of how the trio views talkbackers. "They called it 'The Kobe Project,' or sometimes 'Project: Kobe,'" another one of my well-placed sources told me. "My God, do they laugh and laugh when they use the kobe_ass_tastes handle, or whatever the fuck it's called." All three of the conspirators share a password to use the kobe name, often at the same time, to infiltrate and rupture talkbacker "groups" such as the Baleback and its eventual offshoot, the Pedalback. Looking back now, using state-of-the-art textual analysis, it is obvious to CHOPPAH that kobe had to be the creation of more than one mind: he is often condescending, snobby, grumpy and despicable all within the space of a few minutes or posts. He is the love-child of a troika of pseudo-intellectual bullies, an avatar of their insidious, arrogant hive mind. But his deranged trio's plotting pushed their conspiracy to even darker territories. Desperate to find the ultimate coup de grace, especially as Harry's health problems grew to a near-critical phase while he was distracted by the Famous Monsters of Filmland website they coerced him into taking over, they despicably seized upon the death of beloved film editor and Quentin Tarantino collaborator, Sally Menke. They would make their power play in Menke's AICN obit. ... Tune in tomorrow for Part 2, "Where's Devin?"

  • April 1, 2011, 11:42 a.m. CST

    Impressive Showing for this Movie in the Austin Chronicle

    by Aquatarkusman

    Zero out of five stars.

  • April 1, 2011, 11:52 a.m. CST

    had me at Patrick Wilson

    by solitaire

    The guy is just too good. He was one of the best things about Watchmen. I have always said that although Rorschach is considered the main character by most, it's Dan that is the glue and heart, and Wilson got that.

  • April 1, 2011, 12:04 p.m. CST

    Horror Films and Lazy Writing

    by Mephisto the Great

    I have always believed that many horror filmmakers throw in gore and sex because, frankly, they don't have the writing chops to make a film that requires the audience's intelligence. Is there a place for gore-fest horror films? Sure. But it's nice to see someone take the time to create something scary without resorting to lazy writing.

  • April 1, 2011, 12:06 p.m. CST

    OOoopha. Sorry to disagree..

    by Poptard_JD

    but at one point, I turned to my co-host, Slai and said..."wait..is this supposed to be a comedy?" putting red face paint on a guy and giving him hooves doesn't really scare me. the effects were equivalent to a high school stage production. I liked the idea behind the movie, but this just felt like Paranormal Activity with ghosts in period clothing. Oh, and yes, I did like that the family MOVED out of the first house! Afterwards, I wondered if Patrick Wilson did this film as a favor to someone...

  • April 1, 2011, 12:13 p.m. CST

    Really, Choppah?

    by Frojitsu

    You have to post in every talkback? You have way too much time on your hands.

  • April 1, 2011, 12:25 p.m. CST

    Choppa ought to change his name to Spamma

    by darthderp

    Happy April 1, Chop.

  • April 1, 2011, 12:47 p.m. CST

    STILL NO BILL "GROUNDHOG DAY GHOST BUSTIN ASS" MURRAY OBITUARY?

    by Spielbergs Furious Racism

    HE WAS A QUIET MAN.

  • April 1, 2011, 12:52 p.m. CST

    All these talkback personalities should be permabanned.

    by knowthyself

    Come on harry wtf?

  • April 1, 2011, 2:35 p.m. CST

    Patrick Wilson

    by buggerbugger

    ...is the face of utter blandness. I bet his favourite colour is beige.

  • April 1, 2011, 2:40 p.m. CST

    I'd marry Rose Byrne in a second!!!

    by notcher

    She's my favorite actress and I love the fact that she hasn't broken out as a cliche leading Hollywood actress. "Sunshine" "Knowing" "Adam" and "Two Hands (Fell in love with her)" she's fucking brilliant!!!! I will be seeing this soon!!!!

  • April 1, 2011, 8:41 p.m. CST

    I've seen about a half hour of this movie...

    by The Dum Guy

    Not concurrently, and I can't say I care to see the whole thing. Some of the visuals looked creepy and there was some jump scares, but it seemed really stupid.

  • April 1, 2011, 9:08 p.m. CST

    Had me at Rose Byrne

    by D.Vader

    Total underrated hottie.

  • April 1, 2011, 10:59 p.m. CST

    Not exactly big-budget.

    by Raggles Wimpole

    Though I have yet to see this movie, so I cannot comment on the actually quality (though the trailers make it look rather good), I wonder if people realize that this movie only cost the filmmakers about $1,000,000, which was about what "Saw" cost. I think you really have to hand it to James Wan, Leigh Whannell & the others that, in an age when the budgets of most major studio films routinely balloon upwards of $50 million, they were able to make films for relatively cheap that actually look professionally-made & attempt to do something different. Ironically, the two large-budget films directed by Wan (Dead Silence & Death Sentence), were his least-impressive, though still enjoyable, so another low budget horror film by him is a welcome addition. And it's PG-13, so you gotta give him credit for having the balls to make a non-R horror film that is actually scarier (from what I've read) than a lot of the R-rated crap being made nowadays.

  • April 2, 2011, 1:24 a.m. CST

    Saw it, was scared shitless

    by Durendal

    The film was freaky as hell and kept me tense to the point where I wished it would just end to give me a reprieve. They don't let up much throughout the whole thing. However, I can agree that the design of the demon was awful once you got a good look at him. Darth Maul face + hooves = not scary. They should've gone for a more skinless look (keep the red face, but not the one used) and less old-school devil, which ceased being scary sometime in the 1960s. Other than that, it was good, definitely worth the money if you want to shit your pants.

  • April 2, 2011, 7:56 a.m. CST

    This is the worst film I've seen this year.

    by Paul Dronet

    I feel like I am completely disconnected from the modern day horror audience. This movie.....is scaring people? THIS movie? Are you guys watching a different version than I did? I don't get it. I'm just going to accept my old age and stick with the ghost movies I grew up with like The Changling, Lady in White, Poltergeist, etc.

  • April 2, 2011, 11:51 a.m. CST

    agreed, lord punch

    by Poptard_JD

    after the preview screening, i heard all sorts of murmuring from the audience around me as we were leaving..."i have to walk all the way back to my car now!! alone!" "that was so scary!" i was flabbergasted that the reaction was anything other than laughter.. i have to say, i think the unseen terror in the paranormal activity movies was far more scary than the dude in the red make up.. it just felt so ..silly.

  • April 3, 2011, 4:23 p.m. CST

    Just seen this. It pays homage to the oldschool horror genre.

    by Dr. Samuel Loomis

    It was given a little and with that it created enough to make your skin crawl. I never and I mean never close my eyes during a movie. The most I've ever done, was plugged one ear just to soften the upcoming blow in the movie but there were times in this movie where I was blinking and keeping the eyes closed a little bit longer than a normal blink. It freaked the hell out of me. The whole sequence near the end where he goes to the further (as they put it) kind of reminded me of the 80's movie Little Monsters, starring Fred Savage and Howie Mandell. The world with the fog and whatnot, I just got that feel, and that brought my inner child out even more than the rest of the movie, which was pure old style horror. I got the feel of Poltergeist and The Shinning as well.

  • April 5, 2011, 12:11 p.m. CST

    Darth Maul + jumping monkey

    by hawggie

    The film was creepy in the way "Paranormal Activity" was creepy, right up until they showed the monster. As soon as I saw it I turned to my buddy and said, "Are they serious?" Non-scary monster design + 3 point lighting = not at all scary. And the end just didn't fit with what had happened 5 minuted prior.

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