What I’m Watching: Insidious

Mama, there's a big word in the closet, and I'm frightened! Image from impawards.com

Mama, there’s a big word in the attic, and I’m frightened!
Image from impawards.com

Frenemies forever!

Some girlfriends and I get together for a movie night from time to time.  I know what you’re thinking but no, we don’t gather to watch The Notebook—I said these were friends, not frenemies, and I would rather stick bamboo under my fingernails than waste another two hours of my life watching that piece of dysfunctional hyperdrama (she said politely), but I’ll move on.

Instead we watch, for the most part, horror movies.  All kinds.  Cheesy, classic, ghostie, with aliens or vampires or covens of upscale male witches that all look like they stepped out of an ad for Ecko Unltd®.  Thus when we saw an ad for Insidious touting it as the scariest movie since the invention of the movie reel, it immediately went on the “must see” list.

Don’t believe the hype.

To sum up: Attractive family moves into a new house, and strange things start to happen.  Their baby is always crying, spooky voices are heard over the baby monitor, boxes are inexplicably moved to different parts of the house.  And so on.  Eventually Dalton (Ty Simpkins), the son, falls and bumps his head and, the next day, can’t be woken up, he’s in a coma…or is he???  More sightings, the ghosts

Rose Byrne (far right): Watch her in “Bridesmaids” instead

in the house are getting more aggressive, mom Renai (pronounced “Renee”, only spelled trendily which makes no sense because it’s not like we’re reading along with the script so why the hipster need to trend things up?…and played by Rose Byrne) decides they need to move, but that doesn’t alleviate the hauntings.  Josh, the dad (Patrick Wilson), agrees to a paranormal investigation after his mom

Ms. Hershey, whose plastic surgery is scary, with or without a movie haunting.

(Barbara Hershey) mysteriously alludes to knowing someone who can help.  And so it goes.  It was directed by the guy who directed the first Saw and written by the guy who wrote the first Saw, so there were self-referential nods to their own work (an image of Jigsaw on the blackboard behind Josh, for example) and Ooh, SpOOoOOoOooOoooky duo!  Granted, there are worse horror pedigrees to come from, but I felt like they were busy lifting plot ideas from other movies–even their own–and if they’d focused on some new ideas, it might have been better.

pssst…Patrick…I hate to tell you…but there’s a Sith Lord in your house…

It wasn’t terrible, not in the way that Fear House was terrible with no real redeeming qualities (other than a few craptacular laughs), but it really wasn’t all that good.  I did enjoy the opening credits—screechy violins and giant red lettering, a seeming nod to classic Italian horror movies of the ’60s and ‘70s—though I can’t decide if they were more influenced by Suspiria or Bloody Pit of Horror, but the nod is definitely there.

And the sound was kind of fun.  When Renai overheard the creepy voice on the baby monitor?  Goosebumps!  The sound the creature made when he was nearby, sort of a bone-cracky sound?  Yuck!  And finally, FINALLY, someone recognizes “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” for the nightmare fuel it truly is:

Darth Maul, meet Trent Reznor…

But that’s where my praise ends.  I thought the “horror” premise was so much piffle and the “monster” looked like a Sith Lord who was late for a Nine Inch Nails video taping.  Rose Byrne does everything she can to wring some coherence and emotional gravitas out of her role, but she’s undercut by a supporting cast of caricatures and a really…REALLY…weak story.  Patrick Wilson tries to seem beleaguered and affectionate, but if I were him this story would make me sleep in my school room, too.  He was so much more likeable as the completely sexually repressed Mormon in Angels in America; can’t you please go back to roles like Joe, Patrick? The self-important paranormal investigators were amusing, but distracting, and comic relief should ultimately add to the story, not take your attention out of it.  The investigative equipment was appropriately “weird”, but nothing you haven’t seen in Pink Floyd The Wall. If you want good horror, watch Three…Extremes and prepare for subtitles, because it’s Asian…but that’s where all the ideas for horror movies are coming from now, anyway (see: The Ring, The Grudge, Shutter, etc., etc.).

Watch this movie if:

  • You love a smooth and expressionless Barbara Hershey (seriously…her mouth is so tight she can barely open it to speak her lines).
  • You have worked through the dazzling array of October “Scariest Places Ever” haunted programming on every single cable channel imaginable.
  • You can’t get enough “creepy kids” stories.
  • You’ve gotten lost on your way out of a Nine Inch Nails video.
  • You feel bad for the sorely underutilized kid who plays the other brother in the movie (Foster Lambert) and want to support his acting career.

Don’t watch this movie if:

  • George Clooney is on Charlie Rose talking about his latest political movie.
  • You still have crayons you can put to good use.
  • You have a perfectly usable creepy neighbor you can watch out your window, for free.

4 responses to What I’m Watching: Insidious

  1. JP

    I nearly snarfed my coffee on “there’s a big word in the attic.” Well played!

    I suppose one answer to “can’t Patrick Wilson play more roles like Joe?” is: where would he find them? Who else writes like that? Your review highlights the slapdash, derivative formula that passes for a creative process most of the time. It’s not like Patrick is spoiled for choice.

    I was going to snark about all Barbara Hershey has to do now for the rest of her life is reprise the Black Swan Scary Mom Thing. But at her age in New Babylon she’s lucky to be working at all, so I guess I should shut up about it.

    And there again: the formula. If something is successful, repeat on it endlessly. Continue long after having beaten it into the ground and bored everyone senseless with it. I share your irritation with directors who have become so lazy they are even ripping off themselves. Tim Burton’s on that train.


    • beyondpaisley – Author

      I’m not going to leave the Barbara Hershey thing alone because frankly, her mouth is so distorted that when she smiles, she looks like Alien gearing up for an attack: hershey alien It just ain’t right. And sure, I *get* that there’s not a lot of Joe-roles running around out there but man, it’s gotta be rough, going from that to “phoning it in with the boys from Saw.” It gives me a sad.

      As for Tim Burton, TOTALLY agree. I really want to see him direct something stark, sparse, unadorned. Will his characters be as interesting then? Or does he now totally rely on Johnny Depp in an orange fright wig?


      • Garzilla

        It’s the smile… in conjunction with the forehead AND the neck. She is Alien.

        As for Tim Burton… he couldn’t direct something stark, sparse and unadorned. He is ALL hideous window dressing. Wanker.


      • beyondpaisley – Author

        LOL! Honestly, when I put the two pictures next to each other I was more than a little disturbed by the all-over resemblance. Alien needs a wig…photoshop, anyone? Anybody?

        As for Timbu, I’ll give him props for Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands and the first Batman movie (the one with Michael Keaton, which I LIKE, DAMMIT). But other than that? Everything else he does recycles these movies, in various proportions. With Helena Bonham Carter…save us!


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