Movie Title: Insidious
First Watch / Repeat Viewing
Running Time: 1 hr. and 43 min.
Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo
Where did I watch it?: Home
Insidious starts off as a standard fare haunted house movie, but quickly moves in a direction more like The Exorcist. The Lambert family is moving into a new home. It is hinted that there is something that they are trying to get away from by moving, but it is never elaborated on. Things, as they typically do in this genre, start to go sideways slowly. Some music books that were left on a shelf end up on the floor, there are strange sounds in the attic, things appear other places, and faint voices echo in the house. All of which made me think they really should have just bought a dog to help keep the burglars and poltergeists away. Soon after moving into the new house their son Dalton goes into the attic, falls off a ladder, and ends up in a coma. When things go from bad to worse the family picks up and moves, but that doesn’t solve their problems either. I always love it when characters move from one newly purchased home to another newly purchased home with nary a frame of celluloid in between. Which begs the question, are all horror movie victims made of money? Also, does the poltergeist come with some extra cash in my bank account? I would think about volunteering for a haunting if that were the case.
I have no personal belief in an afterlife or in ghost stories, but I love this type of movie. So, going in my willingness to suspend disbelief is already very high. However, as the movie goes on, the premise becomes increasingly ridiculous culminating in a climax that seems at best improbable. The ultimate solution also strikes me as something that would have fit in just fine with Poltergeist if they had better special effects in 1982.
The real star of the show is the music and the sound effects. They are thoroughly haunting, ranging from frenetic instrumentals to slight background noises that ratchet up the tension. As the sound effects jar and jangle your nerves the movie effectively generates horror with more than just jump scares. From a house alarm to the sound of hands being pressed against cold glass, the faint flickers of horror slink in the background and drive the movie forward beautifully.
The artistic style of the movie also helps draw in the viewer. Some of the set designs toward the resolution were beautiful in very creepy ways. While at the same time the movie was visually stimulating, the design choices didn’t necessarily make a lot of sense. I love the look of old still film equipment, but I feel like they didn’t need it seeing as they also brought modern equipment with them. Likewise, the steampunk gas mask that Elise Rainier wears with Specs looks really cool, but didn’t necessarily feel like a practical way to go forward with what they were doing.
Lastly, in a random aside, it feels like Patrick Wilson based his role in The Conjuring off of Lin Shaye’s performance of Elise Rainier. He really ought to thank her if he hasn’t.
I have a special fondness for characters that are teachers because I am a teacher and Insidious contains our first teacher of the year. Our leading man, Patrick Wilson’s character, Josh Lambert is a high school teacher. After freaky things start going down at home, Mr. Lambert takes the liberty of calling his wife and letting her know he’ll be a little late. A little late turns into 10:30 and 11:30 over the course of what seems to be more than one night. While some teachers certainly work long hours, no one is at school that late. In fact I’m pretty sure you would be setting off alarms. In an even more ridiculous plot point, he tells his wife that his principal is having him grade papers to make extra money. If I had been drinking something I would have spit. Hey, James Wan and Leigh Wannell, teachers don’t get overtime for grading papers. However, I will take the time to give you an F in your representation of the teaching profession.
Despite using some horror movie cliches and a climax that ultimately doesn’t work for me, the movie is effectively horrifying. It kept me on the edge of my seat with a truly gripping atmosphere and artistic style. The ending keeps the movie from reaching its full potential, but doesn’t ever completely jump the shark.
Tomorrow’s Movie: Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)
I got my diet on track today with the help of some excellent meal preparation last night and I started using a tracker to help me figure out what I am consuming. I dug out my cold weather running clothes and my running shoes tonight because it is a balmy 16 degrees and tomorrow is only going to be slightly better. I am going for my first run, starting small, tomorrow.