Thursday, March 31, 2011

Loud sound and fury, signifying INSIDIOUS, the new fright fest from Wan and Whannell

For any fright fans needing the creden-tials of filmmakers James Wan and Leigh Whannell, they're the pair who some years back gave us the exceed-ingly fresh and nasty SAW. Which, being highly successful, spawned the exceed-ingly unnecessary and ugly Saw franchise -- only the second of which TrustMovies bother-ed to see. It stunk, so further perusals -- III through... what are we up to now? VII or something? -- were not necessary. And don't babble on about the franchise's amazing philosophy of guilt and vengeance and redemption-via-death that this series presents. I don't buy it. It's about torture-porn and money-making, impure and simple. Anyway, back to the latest from this daring duo.

Wan's and Whannell's new film, INSIDIOUS, is all about what happens after a model family -- hunky Patrick Wilson (below, left), beautiful Rose Byrne (below, right), and their two adorable kids (Ty Simpkins and Andrew Astor) -- move into a new home, then promptly move out again when they discover that the house is haunted.  (Wait: That's prime horror stuff, all on its own: having to move your entire family's abode twice in quick succession?). But rather than the reality of "moving," the movie-makers (shown at left, with Whannell on the right) are interested in the unreality of... well, you'll see. And if their new film reminds you of one of the stupidest movies ever to hit theater screens -- Paranormal Activity -- the reiminscence is intentional. (The PA filmmaker Orin Peli is one of the producers listed in the Insidious credits.)

What Insidious has going for it is a lot more than had Paranormal Activity (and its rip-offs PA-2 or The Fourth Kind): a sound design (by Joe Dzuban and his crew) to die or kill for and a firm understanding of how absolutely scary are the things we almost -- but don't quite or just for a creepy, mini-second -- manage to see. The first half of the movie is full of this and should provide fans of the genre with many memorable moments.

Then, just about half way through the overlong (102-minute) proceedings, a character named Elise, who is the head of the paranormal unit (played by that very fine actress Lin Shaye, shown above, right, with Mr. Whannell, who shows up as her assistant, "Specs") is made to spout a shitload of exposition that would easily choke the largest dinosaur from the Jurassic Park series (let alone the proverbial horse).

Ms Shaye does this quite well, but the verbiage goes on and on to absolutely ridiculous proportions -- and simply stops the movie in its tracks. What were the filmmakers thinking? This kind of midway exposition, which explains in minute detail the "other world" into which Wilson and we viewers are about to travel, is deadly. We might as well be taking a course at community college: "All right, students: tell me how those astral bodies work!"

From here on in, the movie gets ridiculous, and the more special effects that come into view remind us too well how effective was the creepier, first half of the film. The ending? All too predictable. I would tell you to walk out as soon as that wad of exposition begins to unfurl, so that you can remember the movie as having given you a number of very pleasurable jolts. But of course you won't (nor would I, if I didn't already know better). So good luck.

Insidious, from the newly-formed FilmDistrict debuts all over town (and in lots of them: Click here and then on one of the three blue bars to buy your tickets) tomorrow -- Friday, April 1 -- an appropriate opening date, if ever there was one. What? You thought you were going to see a really scary movie. April Fool!

Photos above are from the film -- except for 
that of Messieurs Wan and Whannell, which comes courtesy 
of the Hollywood Movies section of

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