Thursday, July 28, 2011

"Insidious" - Snark Review

Originally written on Saturday, July 16, 2011

So hey, I've been waiting to get to do a more negative review of something. Thankfully, this cliche-ridden, unfocused mess of a modern horror movie has provided me with more than enough material to tear it a new one.

Insidious essentially contains everything I dislike about modern horror films, and it tosses it all together in an amateurish pile in a choppy attempt to be scary or creepy in the slightest. And not only does it not succeed, in a number of places it made me actually laugh.

The story starts out as your basic horror premise; Perfect family with a perfect life move into their new perfect home, but then it becomes apparent that something is wrong with the house. Renai and Josh are the parents of 3 children, Dalton, Kid Who is Not Important and Quickly Forgotten About, and Crying Baby That Is Also Quickly Forgotten About. The latter 2 are completely superfluous and essentially just there for a few padding sequences.

Anyway, at the beginning our protagonist is Renai, as she starts to notice strange things around the house. Books that she stacked up are mysteriously knocked on the floor, there's a staticy whisper that can be heard over the Baby monitor, and their house is apparently about to fall apart since just about every step they take makes the floor creek, and the door hinges need to be oiled. Pretty soon, while our ever attentive parents are playing with the other 2, Dalton goes into the attic exploring and decides he'd like to try for a Darwin award by climbing an old ladder that's falling apart and can barely support its own weight. Gravity decides to teach him a lesson and he falls down and gets knocked out. The parents find him, and make it obvious that the kid's stupidity is genetic by having him go to bed when he finally wakes up. Because having a kid with a possible concussion go to sleep is a brilliant idea.

The next morning, shockingly, little Dalton is in a coma and won't wake up. After the doctors find no sign of brain damage and are thus unable to explain why he's a vegetable, they just decide to set up a feeding tube and heart rate monitor at the family's house. Because that's totally what they do with somebody who's inexplicably unresponsive, send him home and NOT try to run more tests. Not long after this Renai starts seeing strange things around the house. The door inexplicably close, she think she sees a man standing over the baby's crib, and Josh starts randomly have sepia-toned visions of a small kid in bed. Eventually one of the specters that Renai has been seeing attacks her and, in a move that shows the writers were at least TRYING to be a little original, the family makes the brilliant decision to get out of the obviously haunted house. They move to a new place, but it appears they hired the Real Estate agent from Hell because there's ghosts in this one too. Also, after they decide to move we never see either of the other 2 kids, and are instead introduced to Josh's mom to take their place. Say goodbye!

So anyway, Renee is talking with Josh and his Mom about what she's seeing, and the mom tells them that she had a dream about some demon that's trying to hurt the still vegetative Dalton. Then she sees him for a split second jump-scare and they hear crashing coming from Dalton's room. The go in to discover him still knocked out, but the room's been trashed and wrecked. This convinces Josh to let his mom call in some Medium she knows and we're introduced to Elise and her two poorly placed "comic" relief duo in the form of her two assistants, a pair of guys dressed as Mormon missionaries who make the 3 douchebags on Ghost Adventures look intelligent and subtle.

It's also about here that we jump from one protagonist to another.

You see, until this point the story had been about Renai. She's the one who saw the spirits and the strange things going on in the house, she was the one who had to convince Josh to move, she's the one who knew that something wasn't right about Dalton's coma. But right about here, when the medium starts explaining what's going on with Dalton and the strange demon they saw. It becomes about Josh's story and HIS quest to save Dalton while Renai is downgraded to essentially spiritual cheerleader for her husband.

Elise explains that Dalton is a natural at Astral Projection, the ability to send one's spirit out of their body, and that he's being doing that in his dreams for years. What REALLY caused his coma wasn't the whole head injury combined with terrible parenting, but rather his soul has been trapped away from his body by a demon who is now trying to figure out how to take control of Dalton's body and wreak havoc in the living world. Elise calls the place Dalton is trapped the "Further" because she wants to make sure that nobody watching will actually take her seriously.

Despite this, they decide to hold a seance in order to get Dalton's soul back from the "Further". This apparently requires Elise to put on a gas mask with a microphone that feeds into a set of head phones that her assistant uses to take notation. However this needlessly complex seance doesn't go to well as the demon temporarily takes control of Dalton's body, and he goes all Gage from Pet Sematery and tosses one of the assistants across the room in a sequence that I'm sure would be scary if it weren't so hilariously ridiculous looking. They manage to get the demon (which looks like an extra from the last battle in Braveheart, essentially red and black facepaint and black clothes. ooooh scary.) out of Dalton's body, but the little bugger is still lost somewhere.

Then Elise reveals that the reason Josh's mom knew to call her was because the same exact god damned thing happened to josh when he was a kid, only he was stalked and almost taken over by some creepy old lady spirit. This begs the question why she didn't immediately call Elise when Dalton went into the coma, but then this movie might not have made the 70 minutes mark required for theatrical release. Anyway, they decide the only way to get Dalton back now is for Josh to astral project, go to the "Further" and find Dalton.

So Josh goes into the spirit world like he's the Last Airbender, wanders around until he finds the first house, goes in, is greeted with several more ineffective jump scares, and then goes up to the attic. He spots a red door in the wall and I had to resist the urge to hum The Rolling Stones. He goes through the door, finds where Dalton is being held, and we're treated to our first (and thankfully last) full glimpse at the demon who's been behind this whole thing and man, is it ever ridiculous. The facepaint and prosthetic teeth are already unconvincing, but we then see him sharpening his large, clawed metal hand that just scream Freddy Kruger, not to mention his feet, which are goat hooves that look way too big to actually belong on his legs. He spots Josh trying to save Dalton and...just kind of stands there while Josh runs off with him.

Dude, you're a demon, earlier during that seance you threatened to find Elise and rip out her innards, then bathe in them and eat her flesh, and you can't even stop a reverse kid napping? Laaaaaaaaaaame.

So we're presented with some non-tension as Josh tries to find his way back to his body and Renai starts shouting in his ear to hurry up. It seems the spirits of the astral plain are starting to physically manifest in the mortal realm and are very...very...sloooooooowwwwwwwwwlllllllllyyyyyyy approaching them. Why are they suddenly able to manifest like this? Hell if I know, I guess because "Then the father just strolls back to their bodies, everything is fine and dandy, cue end credits" wouldn't make as good a climax? It wouldn't really be much worse than this choppily edited, poorly shot mess of video.

Josh eventually makes it back to the house, and tells Dalton to go upstairs and get his body, while he stops for no apparent reason and tells the old lady spirit from his past to leave him alone. Well at least we know Josh is still just as good a parent as he was at the beginning of this mess. And that's literally what he does. He stares at the Old Lady (who is just inexplicably there) to "Leave [him] alone" a whole bunch of times, while the Demon finally gets around to chasing Dalton. She just starts laughing and slowly floats backwards because having your scenes have any sort of logical progression is too mainstream for these movie makers.

Anyway, Josh apparently gets back to his body, as does Dalton, and everything's going to tie up nicely. The dipshit duo or assistants are planning on writing a book about this whole thing and make a bunch of money, Dalton is back to being as uninteresting as his long forgotten siblings, and Josh has moved on from his fears of the old woman that he apparently had but were never mentioned. Yep everything is fine...

Oh Wait, If forgot for a second that this is a modern horror movie, which means there has to be a twist at the end to we can get an unnecessary sequel. As it turns out, Josh DIDN'T get back to his body. The Old Lady took over it instead and when Elise figures it out, she gets strangled for her troubles. Renai finds the body, puts together what happened, and then turns around in a shot lifted straight out of Evil Dead. Cut to Black, play one more SCARE!Chord, and cue end credits.

Now if I haven't made it clear, my problems with this movie run deeper than the fact that the plot was rock stupid and unfocused to the point where we just switch protagonists an hour in. It, like Drag Me To Hell before it, relies almost exclusively on jump scares, coupled with quick scare-chord crescendos in the music to try and startle the viewer. I dare those of you with high alcohol tolerances to watch this movie and take a drink every time the music crescendos or there's a quick cut to a jump scare. I guarantee you'll have Cirrhosis by the 45 minute mark.

The movie runs into the problem of trying to get quick, cheap scares from the audience every few minutes rather than trying to build a creepy or disturbing atmosphere. Not to mention that this pattern leaves the movie ludicrously predictable and as a result isn't engaging in the slightest.

Final Score: 3/10

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