tn_insidiousINSIDIOUS (new this week on home video formats) is the latest from James Wan, the director of SAW. He didn’t do any of the SAW sequels though, if that’s what you’re thinking. This is only his fourth movie. I didn’t think SAW was that great and never saw his other horror movie DEAD SILENCE, but I’m kinda rooting for the guy to turn into a consistently good director because of how much I dug DEATH SENTENCE, his vigilante movie starring Kevin Bacon. Also ’cause he’s the only Chinese-Australian director I ever heard of, and that’s kinda cool.

Well, INSIDIOUS isn’t gonna propel him into the pantheon, but it’s not bad. Above average. It’s a ghost story with a mildly unique twist. Nothing to write home about, unless you send the people at home reviews of all the movies you see, which I guess some of us here probly do, so fair enough. It might be something to write home about if they’re interested, just don’t bore them by going into too much detail, please. Learn from my mistakes.

This poster really sucks. Honestly it's not one of those Scary Kid movies. The kid doesn't even look like that and spends most of the movie in a coma. This looks like a CHILDREN OF THE CORN DTV sequel or another THE OMEN ripoff.
This poster really sucks. Honestly it’s not one of those Scary Kid movies. The kid doesn’t even look like that and spends most of the movie in a coma. I don’t know why they want to make it look like a CHILDREN OF THE CORN DTV sequel or yet another THE OMEN ripoff. It’s more of a POLTERGEIST.

Rose Byrne (CIA lady from X-MEN FIRST CLASS) plays a mother of three, just moved, her husband is Patrick Wilson (owl guy from WATCHMEN), a high school teacher who seems kind of distant. There are vague indications of some sort of traumatic event or trouble in the marriage or something. The camera moves very slowly and deliberately, making an ordinary suburban house seem ominous without resorting to gothic shadows or nothing like that. A nice, confident, slow burn opening.

Then, since this is a ghost movie, weird shit starts happening, things they don’t necessarily give much thought to at first, things getting moved around in the house, etc. Then one of the kids is exploring the attic and falls off a ladder. We see that he sees something strange, but he doesn’t even tell anybody. The next day he goes into a coma.

Byrne is really good and sympathetic and the movie milks some sadness and creepiness out of the situation. You see the helplessness of a parent whose son won’t wake up and nobody knows what’s wrong with him, and also of the little brother not able to sleep at night, looking out his door and seeing his lifeless brother in his room down the hall, heart monitor beeping. Also you see the husband being sort of emasculated by not being able to protect his family from the weird shit. He’s got the macho protective thing, telling his wife “Stay here!” when he goes to investigate the loud knock on the door in the middle of the night. But when he can’t figure out who knocked or why the burglar alarm keeps going off or whether or not his wife really saw somebody upstairs for a second there’s nothing he can do to protect anybody. Puffing his chest out doesn’t intimidate travelers from other realms, apparently.

The movie is promoted as “from the makers of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY” because the guy that directed that is one of the 7 credited producers. If you’re reading this review when it’s recent there is a possibility that you still remember PARANORMAL ACTIVITY was a recently relevant no budget POV video movie about how a couple is videotaping themselves and a ghost opens a door at night and what the fuck man that’s terror right there. I will have you know that in this movie a door opens several times, therefore it’s way scarier.

I prefer the “real movie” approach to the “home video” one, so this is way more my speed than PARANORMAL. But I can see a similarity. Both movies give a squeeze to the ol’ primal heebie jeebie glands with brief, hard-to-see, impossible-to-explain apparitions invading and desecrating the safety of the home. Oh shit, what was that sound. Hey, how did this stuff get knocked over in this room, we were just here a second ago. What is that creepy talking I hear over the baby monitor? It’s real effective for a while unless and until you recognize the formula: it’s just gonna be a bunch of unexplained shit happening for a while until things escalate at the end.

Since it’s a real movie and not a home movie it has to actually go somewhere, and not just end with a camera tipped over on the ground when something spooooooky was about to happen. So they gotta call in the exorcist type character. First these “funny” goofballs come in and take a bunch of readings. One is the writer, Leigh Whannell, the other is one of these guys the young people have now with the beards. I wasn’t too happy with these characters but was pleasantly surprised when they turned out to be sort of the pre-interview guys working for the big shot psychic or ghost expert or whatever played by Lin Shaye.

You guys know who that is? I always remember her as the filthy landlady that Woody Harrelson is forced to bone in KINGPIN. (“What is it about good sex that makes me have to crap? You really jarred something loose, tiger.”) She’s a character actress who’s played a ridiculous number of bit parts, often as nurses. Her brother Bob Shaye was the head of New Line Cinema so she was in a ton of their movies, including the original A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.

Anyway it was refreshing to see her in this role where they don’t make her look ugly or act crazy. She’s very confident and professional but polite. When the husband kicks her out of the house for telling him that his son is haunted she’s very nice about it and says she understands completely. In fact she doesn’t really seem like a weirdo until the seance scene where she puts on a crazy gas mask contraption for communicating with astral travelers.

The movie picks up when you get to the explanation of what’s actually going on and what they gotta do to save the kid. It’s a pretty cool idea and makes one of the parents more active in saving the kid than just helping a priest do a bunch of chants or something. But I do wish there was some more surreal ideas in the place that must be traveled to to save the boy. There’s an opportunity for the movie to get into some weirdness but they mostly just have the regular world with extra shadows and smoke machines. One exception, and the highlight of the movie for me, is the weird lead beastie who’s seen in a room sharpening his Freddy claws on a sandwheel attached to an old sewing machine while listening to Tiny Tim’s “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.” I’ve often complained about the horror movie cliche of the Oldie Used In Scary Context, but if you’re gonna do it I think that’s a pretty good song to use.

Also am I crazy or does this demon guy’s antique doll collection include some kind of a Michael Jackson mannequin:

(sorry, I don’t know how to do screengrabs so I had to take a photo of the screen. Actually it doesn’t look too bad but I don’t want the cinematographer to see this and start crying. You know how sensitive they are.)

There’s a couple little things I can mention that might seem like nitpicks but they’re examples of the kind of thing that I think held it back from being as good as it could be. For the most part it has a pretty realistic feel to the characters and the way they react to things, but then every once in a while there’ll be a big one where they don’t. The biggest is the night when they hear the knocking on the door and she says she saw a guy in the room. They know there was somebody outside at least in the middle of the night, and it kept setting off their alarm, it seemed like somebody was harassing them. At this point they’re not thinking it’s anything supernatural, and the husband must’ve stayed up all night watching the door to make sure it doesn’t get opened again. So why didn’t he call the cops? He’s not in the hood with a Stop Snitching ethos, he’s a teacher living in the suburbs, trying to protect a wife and a baby and two other kids. But he doesn’t try to get help with this.

Not as big a deal but there’s a part where the wife is talking to the nurse that helps with their home coma care, and moments after the nurse leaves the room she finds a bloody handprint on the kid’s sheets. Why doesn’t she say, “Hey, come back here for a second” and ask her if she knows what the deal is? I’m not sure. It’s a dumb detail, but it takes you out of the movie’s reality when you wonder those things.

And that reminds me of another unrelated matter. In that same scene she cries and confesses to the nurse that the way everything’s going to shit she feels like the universe is conspiring against her. The nurse says, “Well the universe picked a fight with the wrong chick.” I thought that was a good line but the thing is, the wrong chick does not end up saving the day. The husband sort of takes over as the protagonist and the chick does very little to push back against the universe’s aggression. So the badassness of the line is diminished when it sets up completely unfulfilled expectations. Actually the universe picked a pretty good chick to fight with, a sensitive singer-songwriter. What’s she gonna do, play piano? I told you, we’re dealing with bad guys who listen to Tiny Tim all the time. They can handle some corny music.

The cool way the title comes on screen seems inspired by DRAG ME TO HELL, which I thought was a much more fun and inventive take on the PG-13 ghosts-‘n-possessions-‘n-shit type of movie, but that got me thinking about spookablasts. See, when DRAG ME TO HELL came out Sam Raimi referred to it as a “spookablast,” and then I kept seeing reviews and articles that used that casually as if it was a word everybody was familiar with and understood. Actually it’s not a real word, they just got tricked, they got Raimi’d. If not, why didn’t I see anybody using it to describe INSIDIOUS? Is this not spookablasty enough for you? The tone is pretty different, it’s much more serious and there are way less fans and less shit being hurled toward said fans. But that part with the guy sharpening his claws is pretty weird, it seems pretty spookablasty for a minute there in my opinion. Oh well.

INSIDIOUS is not, in my opinion, a spookablast. But it’s a spookaokaytimeiguess.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 13th, 2011 at 2:03 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

77 Responses to “Insidious”

  1. I feel pretty much the same way. Not a bad movie, but definitely a missed opportunity. The only thing that really stood out to me as unique was that demon. Completely ridiculous, in a good way. Giving Darth Maul hooves and making him really into dolls? Why not. That’s gotta be scary to SOMEONE.

  2. wow, they try to use Tiptoe Through the Tulips in a scary context? I can not imagine that song being scary, maybe it’s because they use to use it in a lot of YTMNDs

    anyway I saw Dead Silence, it was pretty darn mediocre, not really worth checking out unless you really want to see an R rated Goosebumps type movie

  3. Vern, if I read you right this is more or less a remake of Poltergeist?

  4. Knife sharpening to “Tiptoe Through the Tulips?”


  5. I don’t know, Vern. I thought this was a pretty effective engine of scary things happening. I mean, yeah, at times it does feel like a greatest hits album of scare tactics but that never detracted from the fun I had of constantly shitting myself until the people around me just couldn’t stand it anymore but by then the movie was over so everyone left.

    But seriously, there were people in the theater for this whimpering and quiver breathing. And it’s all achieved through old fashioned filmatism: Sound, music, editing and actors looking as freaked out as the audience feels. In today’s extreme digital age that’s kind of refreshing. A reminder that it’s the classic tropes that can really get under our skin.

    I agree with you about the afterlife place. They could have done more with it but still, I’m glad they didn’t go all CG environments on us. The whole thing felt grounded and rooted in a handcrafted world.

    I know horror is like comedy. You’re never gonna convince someone that it’s scary when they just don’t feel it but I love a good ghost story and this was one of the best I’ve seen in a long while.

  6. Yeah it’s all pretty familiar, but I had a blast with this movie. I went to see it with some friends and it was great feeling the whole temperature of the room go down whenever the shit started hitting the fan. The guy walking back and forth outside the window, then all of a sudden he’s IN the room? Sent the girl next to me out of her seat.

    My favorite bit, though, would have to be the scen where Barbara Hershey is describing her dream. It’s just such an effective use of the camera and lighting. I can’t even remember if there’s music over the scene, my mind just focuses on her words, the claws reaching out from the shadows. And then when they cut to Patrick Wilson and he’s got the fucker standing right behind him? EVERYONE in the theater went nuts.

    I was slightly let down by the third act. I mean, I like it, I think it’s well structured and well-done and that the movie goes exactly where it needs to go, but the Big Bad that Wan and Whannell came up with just isn’t very scary and when he attacks the camera starts shaking and fast cutting and you the incredible sense of control that had made the previous couple of hours so damn riveting.

    Still, even with issues, it’s just nice to have a solid, low budget original horror movie come out and do solid business. If people in Hollywood weren’t so hellbent on making everything as expensive and shiny as possible, then maybe we wouldn’t be burdened with the inoffensive, unmemorable pap that is clogging up screens right now.

  7. Wait, spookablast? WTF? I missed that whole thing when Drag Me To Hell came out, apparently. And if I understand it correctly, it was then parroted endlessly in reviews like the word ‘G’ word when that movie came out? Weird. And dumb.

  8. I remember the term spookablast, I also remember when Drag Me To Hell was gonna star Ellen Page instead of that girl that got buck nekked for that noir movie

    I also remember a time when the entire internet was united in their simultaneous obsession with Ellen Page and hatred of all things Juno (aka The Most Hipster Movie Ever Made)

    sorry, I’m rambling, just can’t believe all that shit was so long ago

  9. Did we ever find out what a “home skillet” was?

  10. Ace Mac Ashbrook

    July 13th, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    Griff> What is a YTMNDs?

  11. It’s a website where people get single pages where they can upload an image, with text over it and a sound file playing to create some sort of new media collage, often in an attempt at humour. YTMND comes from one of first ones being a pic of Sean Connery from FINDING FORRESTER with a sound clip of his line “You’re The Man Now, Dog!”.

  12. To the best of my knowledge, “home skillet” is just a particularly arbitrary variation on “homeboy.” For a while in the 90s you could attach “home” to just about anything. Home slice, home piece, etc. In any case, JUNO didn’t make it up. It’s been around since at least 1992 when Cypress Hill dropped it in “Hits From The Bong,” rhyming it with “There’s water inside, don’t spill it.”

    I’m not afraid to admit that I totally heart Ellen Page. Her performance in SUPER made me feel really, really funny inside, like I got touched in my bikini area by a wicked hot babysitter.

  13. I also thought she was one of the good parts of X-MEN 3.

  14. Spookyblastyfragilisticexpialidocious!
    Even though INSIDIOUS was something not atrocious,
    If you read Vern long enough you’ll always feel precocious!

  15. Sorry I just watched the Sherman brothers documentary THE BOYS: THE SHERMAN BROTHERS STORY and have had Mary Poppins songs stuck in my head.

  16. “one of these guys the young people have now with the beards.”

    Dunno exactly why but I had a good chuckle over that one.

    I kinda feel the same way about this movie. On one hand I respect that it did it’s job with mostly practical old fashioned scares. On the other hand I felt like there was no real unique hook to it, it’s just a familiar story… told. I liked the sort of down-to-earth feel of the characters and their decision-making process (nice to see a family pack up and move out of a haunted house for once). But then by the end it got actively silly when SPOILERS he’s rescuing his son from the demon’s dream lair in some sort of astral projection type of deal.

    So it was a bit of a wash for me. I’m not sorry to have spent the time watching it, but it didn’t set my pants on fire.

  17. Nothing wrong with having a heart-on for Ellen Paige. She’s that girl you always wanted to fuck in High School who did like 2 pornos for cash, but then became a lawyer.

    Ok, so maybe in my case the analogy is oddly specific.

    As far as InNSIDIOUS goes, I happened to see a trailer for the UK release on ESPN Euro or whatever and if that had been the attempt to get me to see the movie stateside I might have actually gone to see the fucking thing. Great trailer that actually looked scary; and based on the astounding consensus of “ok” I’ll give it a look and get back by the time everyone is debating which was the better Freddy sequel.

  18. See, I think she’s the girl you DIDN’T want to fuck in high school and then you see her like a year after graduation and you’re like, “What was I, retarded?”

    I have some difficulty seeing the two pornos thing but that’s cool. We’ve all used these boards to work out some personal shit at some point.

  19. I don’t think Ellen Paige has a lot of sex appeal. Not that she wouldn’t be sexy if she was my girlfriend or anything, but I just don’t sexualize her. She’s just a nice looking gal who appears to have an actual personality.

  20. Yeah, but that what makes me want to fuck her so bad.

    I’m what you might call a feminist.

  21. Hey, speaking of JUNO and Sam Raimi, did y’all hear that Diablo Cody is writing the EVIL DEAD remake?

    We’ll all remember this as the day the AICN talkbacks reached critical mass. A perfect storm of misogyny, fanboy entitlement, and curdled nostalgia, feeding on itself, gaining momentum, until it achieved sentience, raising its shaggy head toward the sky it had never seen except in the opening scrawl of the first two Star Wars movies, and howled “DO NOT WANT!”

    It then proceeded to rape and kill George Lucas while weeping in ecstasy and casting Nathan Fillion in every movie ever made.

    (I apologize if anyone saw me make this same comment on the AV Club. I worked really hard on it.)

  22. Bringing in Diablo Cody for a dialogue polish is like bringing in Mr. T as a jewelry consultant. I am not enthused.

  23. I like the analogy. In both cases, you’re paying for quantity, not quality.

    But seriously, I kind of liked both JUNO and JENNIFER’S BODY, and there was no way the ED remake wasn’t going to be a joke anyway, so why not? At least it won’t be “gritty.”

  24. I dunno, am I allowed to say I dislike both JUNO and JENNIFER’S BODY without being accused of rabid vagina-hatred? I don’t think Cody has shown any facility whatsoever for the splatter aspects of THE EVIL DEAD or the wacky physical comedy aspects of EVIL DEAD II. I think she’ll probably just end up bringing her usual self-referential tongue-in-cheek shtick to the party, that this means we can expect the characters to speak in nothing but sardonic quips. The choice of director makes me think they’re playing up the splatter and playing down the Marx brothers gags. But I dunno. It’s so hard to tell from these internet news tidbits what the final product will be like. At one time I would have trusted Raimi to shepherd his baby no matter what, but I actually thought DRAG ME TO HELL was pretty toothless. And his production shingle is more miss than hit (I’m looking at you, THE GRUDGE).

  25. Holy shit, is Paul is lobsters?

    When D.C. writes the ED remake she will either play it smart and turn out something just clever enough to rebuild her nerd cred, or she’ll go full on fuck you and have a the rape tree singing the Ninja Turtles theme or some shit like that. Time will tell.

  26. You’re judging Diablo Cody on her work, not her gender, just like a male (read: normal) filmmaker, so t think we can assume that you are not specifically afraid of a lady’s ladyparts. You didn’t act like her success is the result of some quota in the screenwriter’s union and is thus the only thing keeping your unproduced screenplay from getting picked up, nor did you draw up a graph indicating that her writing abilities are inversely proportional to her fellatio skills. You kept the cocksucking out of it, which I respect.

  27. About that unproduced screenplay…

  28. About Insidious – I fell ambivalent about the movie. Some of the scares and the concept of the kid being haunted are alright. The moving out of the house took care of that age old question. But I watched it a second time (saw it at the theaters originally) and what became readily apparent to me on second viewing was the complete question of why? There were no stakes. I did not give two shits about any of these characters.

    Every scene was specifically designed to either give us information necessary for down the line or to cue some huge musical screech to let us know someone scary was in the frame somewhere. None of these people acted like real people. There was no conversation or true character information given that was not exposition for the plot. It just plain kind of sucked in every aspect other than the jump scares. If anybody that regularly posts on this website read the screenplay, would you have any interest in seeing it in its present incarnation? No, you would beef up the characters, sharpen the dialogue, figure out a more creative way to shoot some scenes. And then you would maybe think about it some more before you made it.

    In defense of this argument, the theater I originally watched this at had a really shitty sound system. I don’t recall jumping once. As I watched it on blu-ray, in my living room, I was surfing the web and somewhat paying to the movie in the background. I realized it wasn’t my kind of storytelling. Then I jumped. Without even really knowing what picture was on the tv. I jumped because of the suddenly shrill and completely effective musical cue. A shiver went down my spine and my eyes went back to the screen and I realized that a being was in the frame and Rose Byrne was scared. That was it. Still no stakes. Just a being in the frame and whatever sort of instrument making that godawful sound coming from every one of my speakers.

    I think way too many people are associating this movie with the jumps from the musical cues. But if the musical cue sans image can make me jump, then honestly, what good is the rest of the movie?

  29. There won’t be a rape tree in the new Evil Dead. Sam Raimi has said that he now regrets putting that in the movie. When he says he thinks a new filmmaker could improve on the work his meager production did in the ’80s, I hear more of an artist who still doubts himself despite all his accomplishments and praise. It’s not coming from the same place as a cold producer who just wants to cannibalize his own archive, but the end result will be the same.

    Wish Ghost House has a good track record. Exceptfor 30 Days of Night, I haven’t found them very inspired. Cody writing the script at least seems like something new. Campbell signing on sounds like… I’m not sure what to make of that. Respect, yes. Long overdue net points, maybe.

  30. On Insidious, I really liked the subtle look of The Further. Not a huge gimmicky horror world, just different enough that we know something’s wrong. Also, metaphysically, I’m fascinated by what The Further could represent. Here it’s scary bad guys, but my mind is adding all sorts of other things.

    I also found Ellen Page extremely sexy in Super. I mean, I think we’ve discussed in other threads my exciting encounters with unbalanced women. But Ellen Page in Juno or Whip It is hot too.

  31. I’m surprised that Diablo Cody is doing anything, I figured after the failure of Jennifer’s Body she was gonna wind up a flavor of the month (along with Megan Fox)

    “the monkey on your back is the latest treeeeeeeeend!”

  32. A Serbian Movie just got banned here in Norway, and I was wondering if anybody’s seen it? Some people say it’s the sickest movie ever made, but it got three stars from Kim Newman in Empire Magazine, so…

  33. I’ve been wanting to see A Serbian Movie, but I heard the US version is actually edited? what’s the deal with that?

  34. oh my, I see it’s not even on Netflix, has it been released in the U.S. yet?

  35. Wasn’t Diablo Cody doing a TV show for the last few years?

  36. According to Newman’s review it’s all about pushing the boundaries for what’s acceptable just for the sake of it. If the director has a message it get lost in all the blood, incest, rape, phaedophilia and porn. But there are others that say that it’s an important movie about the harsh reality we live in. Fuck if I know. Even the distributor has spoken againt it here in Norway.

  37. Insidious is a clumsy movie, but a funny one. Tha Elm Street remake needed to be more like this film.

  38. Diablo Cody kind of annoys me. I think she has merit and if she had a good collaborator she could do some interesting things.

    She just goes a few steps too far with her style. Juno should have been more on the level of Enid in Ghost World where her snark and humor were really just manifestations of her insecurities and unhappiness. Instead, Juno was just snarky and “funny” because she’s just the coolest highschool girl ever.

    I’m a big fan of Aaron Sorkin and I think he manages to write excellent dialogue that has a hyper style to it that isn’t realistic. I think Diablo Cody could do that if she had someone to work with who she could trust and who could make her understand that less is more sometimes.

  39. So, I’m watching the news this morning before work and catching up on email. You know, doing my thing.

    First of all, the next person who describes Republicans who voted to basically end Medicare as being “heroic” gets hit. Talk shit, get hit. Seriously, it’s not heroic to be a bourgeois legislature that votes to lower benefits for the weakest in our society. Assholes.

    So, there was a commercial for Insidious and they kept saying shit like “the scariest movie for decades” and comparing it to Poltergeist. Even if that were true, I don’t know since I have not seen it, doesn’t that sort of hype hurt someone who views it?

    I remember when I lived in Puerto Rico and we would hear nothing about movies so whenever we would go it was based on a movie poster or because a friend wanted to go see something. Before going to the theatre to The Sixth Sense all I knew was that it had ghosts and Bruce Willis. Of course I was imagining Die Hard plus zombies or something. Instead we got The Sixth Sense and it was effective because I had no idea what it was going to be.

    Similarly, The Blair Witch Project was very effective because I knew nothing about it when some friends asked me to go with them.

    Basically, I think most films would be better if they were approached as character dramas and focused on getting you interested in the characters and then had the horror / action / comedy / whatever happen. I also think a lot of movies would be better if they were more coy in marketing.

    Mostly, I dream of the day a movie is marketed as a dramatic film but the film is actually a gruesome werewolf movie.

  40. Insidious is pretty great. I went with a friend who gets scared easily despite being a big horror fan. Every time I see her now I start singing Tiptoes Through the Tulip and she freaks out. It’s hilarious.

  41. I politely request that when the word “is” follows Insidious it be in all caps, for the rest of this disscusion. That way it’ll sound like those goofy trailers in my head.

    Insidious IS decent.

  42. I just noticed that INSIDIOUS hasn’t even started here. It comes out next week. I thought it would be on DVD soon.

  43. I think Diablo Cody is only doing a script polish. The director is Uruguayan Federico Alvarez, and he co-wrote the originally script with Rodo Sayagues. So I think Cody will mostly do a dialogue polish, as how would Spanish speakers know how to write good American dialogue, so I guess she is giving the script some American sensibilities. Cody thinks the script is great, and her job will be easy because there isn’t much to do. So this will be no way a Diablo Cody script.

  44. I don’t know, Ghost, I have only seen It’s Something About Mary in Spanish and boy is that movie hilarious in Espanol.

  45. Casey, you bring up an interesting point relevant to the Verniverse. If we want to experience a movie on its own terms, and perhaps even help ourselves enjoy it more, it often seems better to not let yourself learn all kinds of things about it before viewing it. On the other hand, sometimes reading a good review or watching the trailer of a film can tell you that it’s not something you WANT to experience at all, or it can become something you enjoy more because of information you are given about it before viewing. Or, as with some of Vern’s more obscure reviews, it can inform you of the film’s existence and cause you to check it out.
    For me, I’ve started a policy a couple years ago of not watching full trailers for any film that I already know I’m going to see, regardless (like a Pixar or Coen brothers movie). I still have occasionally watched a teaser (one that shouldn’t tell you plot points, but might tell you how the film is going to look). I feel like that’s a good rule for me. Even in a lesser film, like AVATAR, by not seeing any of the blue cat people beforehand (even though the trailer was everywhere), I believe that I was more entertained on my initial viewing of the film. But I guess there’s not necessarily a way to measure that. If you make a great film though, the point is in some ways moot for me, because I watched TRUE GRIT having read the book and being familiar with the previous cinematic version, and it was my favorite movie of the year. But the best movies don’t rely on revelations/plot twists to create their impact on you, so in a way, whatever information you have about them doesn’t tell you anything about the experience of watching them. Which is something we all enjoy about movies, we enjoy what is communicated to us in this particular medium that’s not in others.
    But there are some not-so-classic movies, like, I don’t know, INSIDIOUS that might benefit from not knowing SPOILERS in that I might be more appreciative of the film’s strengths that way. I might be a better judge of how effective the tension is built and released.
    There are twists or big reveals in a lot of classic movies, but on the one hand it doesn’t matter if you know what “rosebud” or “Luke, I am your father!” means or not, because there’s so much more going on in the movie, but on the other hand, it’s something I wouldn’t tell those younger than me about, because I want them to have that first time shock, like I did.

  46. I agree, Jek. A great movie is great because of how it tells the story and not just for the story itself.

    I just feel that some movies, especially horror films, seem to be made and marketed the same way you would make and market an amusement park ride. I think having a title like Paranormal Activity and having commercials that show people in a movie theatre getting scared really makes the whole movie going experience into a ride.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but I would like to see more films branch out and try to be made with a different idea and be marketed differently.

    I really enjoy The Blair Witch Project because I had no idea what it was about outside friends telling me it was a documentary and that it was the only new release that weekend in English at our theatre. I didn’t go in bracing myself to be scared and I was able to appreciate the movie on its merits and came away greatly affected by it. I think had I went in knowing it was a horror movie I might have tried to brace myself and challenge the movie to scare me instead of letting it wash over me naturally.

    Then again, I feel that some movies really make a lot of use of those expectations. I adore The Texas Chainsaw Massacre because the very title tells you what the movie is about. It’s a grimy and dirty film but it doesn’t really have much gore or anything. I think people see the gore and remember it because of the expectations they went in with and because the film does such a great job of implying more than they show.

    I think a big reason why Japanese Horror worked a few years ago, besides using new visuals and themes that were novel, was that we had very few expectations going in. I really enjoyed Ringu and Ju On because all I knew was that it was about Japan and weird stuff happening. I think I was also trying to appreciate the movie as a foreign film so there are lots of cultural details that are new or interesting to appreciate and then all of a sudden I’m scared shitless.

    So, yeah, I’m not even sure what I’m saying anymore outside of “I like a lot of movies and I can sometimes tell you why.”

  47. I thought this movie was pretty good. Much better then I expected. the only real issues I had with it were the extremely low budget and the fact it mirrored Poltergeist. The low budget really shows up in the later scenes with the smoke machines. It slightly took me out of the movie because of the obvious use of the smoke machines. I really liked the fact that it was a slow burn type of horror movie. The only type of horror movies like that lately have been the horrible faux documentary type films like The Last Exorcism. I really hate those fake documentary films and this was a breath of fresh air for me. It felt very much like a late 70’s type of horror movie to me.

  48. I think movies are hurt plenty due to advertising. I found watching movies i didn´t know anything about having more of an impact. To be honest i was blissfully unaware of DISTRICT 9 until I heard some good shit about it. But that was more word of vague word of mouth than thanks to advertising.

    Of course you need to sell a product, but movies are not hamburgers or furnitures. They are creative works that relies on firsthand impressions.

  49. I really liked this movie too. My expectations for modern american horror movies has gotten so low that when one comes along which is competent it’s a nice surprise. Enjoyed the musical score, old-school camera movements, interesting camera angles, very little CGI, and not a reliance on jump scares. Agree with Vern about the two ghost expert dudes, they were unfunny and annoying and took me out of the movie for a bit. I might have to check out Death Sentence now, but is it safe to say Dead Silence isn’t worth checking out? Haven’t heard good things about it.

  50. DEATH SENTENCE is awesome! If James Wan was capable of such an incredible movie…maybe I should give the guy some slack. SAW was pretty good.Despicable, but good.

  51. Delbert: DEAD SILENCE is…okay. It has some good scares, but in the end falls pretty flat, despite its seriously great Tales-From-The-Crypt-ending. There are moments when you can seriously feel how awesome it COULD have been, maybe if it had been made by some more experienced filmmakers. If you ever catch it on TV, feel free to watch it. It’s not awful, it’s just not very memorable.

    Also I think that SAW is better than its reputation. It’s a lean, mean low budget thriller, that suffers from bad music video editing, but works pretty well apart from that. It seriously doesn’t deserve its pop culture status with the 25 sequels and shit, but if you ask me, it’s not bad either.

  52. Grim Grinning Chris

    July 14th, 2011 at 2:46 pm


    That is exactly what I have been saying about DEAD SILENCE for years. It would have been a great TFTC episode. Actually it probably would have been two great episodes.
    Its issues stem from trying to combine two concepts (that do not really go together) into a single mythology and that not working.
    And then neither one (nor the combination of the two) being able to sustain a feature length movie- so you are left with a half hour of total padding to boot.

    It did also make for the second best haunted house at the 2007 Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando- the first best being a fucking AMAZING walkthrough based on THE THING.


  54. I think the big problem with DEAD SILENCE is that it is trying sooooooo hard to create a mythology for sequels that it gets bogged down in the details. I won’t blame James Wan and Co. for this as the pressure to create the next SAW franchise must have been incredible. There is a lean and mean CANDYMAN type film in there but it just gets buried by the constant exposition to create a “horror icon” type of monster.

  55. Is DEATH SENTENCE really that good? I never heard anything good about it until I started seeing internet love for it a couple years ago. I guess I’m just skeptical, because I sure didn’t like SAW or what followed it.

    What exactly makes it stand out from other ‘revenge/vigilante’ movies?

  56. The short answer: Kevin Bacon and consequences.

  57. For one, the action is really well done. Small scale, but exciting because it’s so clear and practical, but still dramatic and inventive. Wan uses the exact opposite style he did in SAW. Absolutely no strobe effect editing. There are shots that last full minutes, gliding over great swathes of horizontal and vertical territory, turning a mundane parking garage into a battlefield. For two, Kevin Bacon gives a great performance, going from a not-particularly-likable soccer dad to a fucking Mad Max berserker angel of death. And for three, the thing that really sets it apart, is that it is probably the only revenge movie that manages to have its cake and eat it too. The revenge is bloody satisfying, but also not worth the cost. It really would have been better for everyone if he just let bygones be bygones, but it’s not preachy about it and doesn’t expect you to actually care more about the message than about the glories of cinematic violence. It’s still an exploitation movie, but it’s far from soulless.

    There’s a reason the movie’s reputation continues to grow. It gets better the more you think about it. Seriously, what’s stopping you from giving it a shot? You’d think you’d trust us by now.

  58. Um, I guess mine was the long answer.

  59. But I doooo trust you guys. :)

    Looks like i’ll be checking it out. Once i get monies again, anyways (that’s what’s stopping me).

    Thanks fellas!

  60. Dude, they’re selling it used for a quarter on Amazon. Literally. A quarter.

    I hope you’re not that hard up. That would bum me out.

  61. Yeah, but they kill you with the shipping. I’m sure Entertainmart has it for a couple bucks.

    After Bacon’s performance in First Class, I suppose I kinda owe him that much anyway.
    He was good in that kiddie creeper movie, too.

  62. He was pretty awesome in SUPER, too, which I keep bringing up for some reason.

  63. Haven’t seen that yet. I’m still pissed about Ebert ruining the ending for me in the first paragraph of his review.

  64. A quarter? I paid almost 70 times that and I was satisfied with my purchase. What a steal.

  65. Death Sentence was the author Brian Garfield’s follow up to Death Wish in 1975, and it hurts my brain just thinking about what an awesome sequel it would have been if Michael Winner and Charles Bronson had made it into a movie in ’76 or ’77.

  66. The movie Death Sentence isn’t really based on the Brian Garfield book, even though it’s credited that way. Garfield was happy with the credit because he felt it fulfilled the anti-vigilante message of the book. Personally I thought the book was pretty crappy. It was his kneejerk reaction to the movie of Death Wish, and is painfully heavy-handed in it’s “seriously guys, this is supposed to be anti-vigilante, not pro” dialogue.

    Also I think he’s not giving Michael Winner enough credit. I mean, I know it changed in the sequels but I think the original, with Bronson’s creepy rambling at the end, gets the message across perfectly.

    But man I’m glad to see other people sharing the love for Death Sentence. I was not aware if it’s gaining a reputation over time. I don’t want to hype it up too much because it’s pretty much a studio B-movie, but I love how it embraces that while also far exceeding expectations in some areas. It has those ridiculous criminals and John Goodman with the accent but then Bacon gives an A+ dramatic performance. And I wouldn’t say the message is subtle, but it’s exactly the right balance for me. The image of the hero and the villain sitting next to each other, no longer visually distinguishable, says it all.

    Maybe Wan just shouldn’t be making horror movies.

  67. The first Death Wish is a surprisingly balanced movie. But then again, 70’s Winner wasn’t the fascist bastard 80’s Winner boasted about being. I know that Death Sentence doesn’t follow the book, but either way it’s too bad it didn’t inspire Winner/Bronson to make a sequel much earlier.

  68. There was too much “homage” in DEATH SENTENCE. Yes, the revenger is not a new genre, but the multiple *direct* quotes from THE CROW, TAXI DRIVER, etc ultimately makes it a second-class movie. It’s a movie about other movies. Which is a shame, because the action sequences (like the scene in the parking garage) are great, and don’t need to hide behind other movies.

    INSIDIOUS was kind of like 13 GHOSTS crossed with AMITYVILLE, in a good way. Some of the visuals were very spooky — and show that you *can* violate the “less is more” horror movie rule. (Wan just shows you the spooky face, without blinding editing, lets you stare at it and see that it is spooky.) I saw it on an airplane in the middle of the afternoon, and it was scary.

  69. Insidious?— ehhhh. Meant to be spicy, yet not spicy enough. It felt like a compendium of other, better movies (The Amityville Horror [new, not old], Poltergeist, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey). Plus, Patrick Wilson seems to be morphing into the new and not necessarily improved version of Bill Pullman: generically handsome man-in-distress, but I kinda doubt Wilson can pull off a cheesy yet somehow convincing version of the U.S. President as Pullman did in Independence Day.

    Lin Shaye’s solid work managed to redeem it somewhat in its latter half, but still… I truly believe the modern American horror movie is all but dead. Over the past decade, you have to look to Asian and European sources to find true excellence in the horror genre.

  70. When the couple moved into their second house what happened to their other kids? Did they mention this?

  71. Just saw it. It had some nice jump scares, but left me all in all pretty indifferent. I hated the cheap ending. But it was funny that while I was watching the movie, the weather outside changed. It suddenly got very window, there was some lightning and some freaky sounding hail, that sounded like someone would tapping his fingernails against my window. That definitely helped to make me enjoy it a little bit more. Kinda like a 4D experience.

  72. Caught CHAPTER TWO yesterday. I liked it, but its not really a rehash of the first film other than obligatory so-called “filmatic hallmarks” back to it. (3rd ghost movie in a row for Wan, I think he’s kinda bored of this shit now.) Less a haunted house movie and more a murder mystery. More PSYCHO III and IV to a degree. If you liked the characters and like an expansion of that mythos and universe, you might like this. If not, you’ll go “meh.”

  73. It is six and a half years later and I am retracting my previous comment where I called the spookablast phenomenon dumb. Yeah, it’s annoying and pretentious when people start using a new word like it’s always been there, but life’s too short to let it get in the way of expanding our lexicon in a fun new way. In reparation of me having a stick up my butt, I will devote today, an October Friday the 13th, to all things horror in order to deepen my appreciation of the spookablast, if not for the word itself then at least for what it represents.

  74. Honestly, I’ve never heard the term outside of this websight.

  75. Finally caught this one after avoiding it for years (I just kinda hate jump scares to be honest), and it’s kinda mediocre, but definitely a dry run for Wan’s Conjuring series, where he manages to fine-tune the scary showpieces while also adding likable characters and a better written story.

    Vern nails all the problems with the movie, such as the MAIN CHARACTER literally handing the reigns over to a character we barely know (I wouldn’t exactly call sexism, but it’s weird she literally says to her husband “you’ve always been stronger than me” even though the movie doesn’t show this before or after). Also, there’s way too many plotholes like the aforementioned “why wouldn’t you call the nurse back after you found a bloody hoofprint and she’s barely out the room?” and also the moment where the son tells Byrne he’s been seeing the comatose son walking around at night and the movie just cuts to the next scene! Like, didn’t they have a conversation about that after? The Conjurings may have sloppy moments like that but at least they were less noticeable.

    Also yeah, the ending is kinda garbage – the “lipstick demon” doesn’t just not get a comeuppance, he doesn’t even get a last scene! The last time we see him he’s in the middle of an action scene chasing a kid and running up the wall like The Babadook or something. I’m not really sure why everyone just figured he was defeated other than the movie tells us so. But I don’t want to be too hard on it – there’s a few good scare scenes, Shaye is a really likable onscreen presence and she gets a cool character to play. The movie looks absolutely great for its tiny budget. ($1.5 million!?) I’m glad Wan got a chance to move on to bigger and better things but I’m totally ok never watching this one again.

  76. The opening shot of the camera closing in on the old lady is goose bump inducing for me.

  77. I just watched this one. I watched CONJURING 1 & 2 and ANNABELLE COMES HOME out of interest in the new CONJURING movie coming out (see my comments on C2) and then decided to check out the other James Wan, Patrick Wilson ghost stories. There’s one thing I found interesting and I keep thinking about it, so I’m going to comment on it. There were 3 different scenes in the first part of this movie that could’ve been seen as exhibits of Wilson’s character being vain. He pulled out a gray hair (commenting on how it keeps coming back, so it’s something he is vigilant about), he applies eye cream before bed, and when he’s horsing around with his wife he pretends to be her, commenting on him, saying things like he’s so young and strong and handsome.

    I expected these things to be going somewhere major with his character, like his desire to stay young is detrimental to his personal growth and affects his ability to fight the ghosts, or it is a sign of his selfishness and inability to open up to his family and affects his ability to fight the ghosts. Or something. But nada. Which I think is kind of cool. So he uses eye cream. So what. No big deal. I think that’s great. Why can’t guys use eye cream? There’s nothing wrong with that, but I honestly can’t think of any other movie that would show the main, male lead using eye cream and not have it be a statement about him being vain and shallow, or even worse, somehow he’s ineffectual as a man and cannot defend his family from ghosts because of his girly tendencies. So, kudos from me to you, James Wan and Patrick Wilson for your fight against the patriarchy.

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