Film and TV

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:

Title: Insidious

Not Another Haunted House Movie... Oh, buck up. This one is from Leigh Whannel and James Wan, creators of the Saw franchise.

What Does That Have To Do With Anything? I dunno, those movies made a lot of money, right? Plus, there's a good likelihood of creepy puppets.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Two-and-a-half metronomes out of five.

Tagline: "It's not the house that's haunted."

Better Tagline: "These aren't the ghosts you're looking for."

Plot Synopsis: The Lamberts have just moved into a new house. However, it isn't too long before strange occurrences and an unfortunate accident lead them to wonder if supernatural forces might not be at work.

Are There Creepy Puppets? Oh, yes. The one from Saw pops up as well, but I won't say where.

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Shortly after moving into the new home, young Dalton Lambert suffers a fall and slips into what looks like a coma. Problem is, his brain activity seems normal. Dalton just...isn't there. Parents Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai (Rose Byrne) don't know what to make of it, and Rose starts seeing and hearing increasingly disturbing things centered on her son and infant daughter (the other son, Foster, doesn't seem bothered). With the help of Josh's mother (Barbara Hershey), and against Josh's wishes, Rose brings in a psychic who tells the Lamberts their son is in an astral realm called "the Further." And he's attracted the interest of some not-so-friendly ghosts.

So How Bad Is It? Not at all, really. The first two acts are perfectly acceptable, with some nice jumpy moments and one scene that sent even the jaded audience at my screening into a screaming fit that lasted a good 30 seconds. But let's get to the...

"Critical" Analysis: I'm rethinking my stance on bringing young children to horror movies. Like everyone else, I almost considered it a form of child abuse to expose kids to movies like (to name only a few examples from my own screening history) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Devil's Advocate, and Paranormal Activity. Now I'm not so sure, because it's starting to dawn on me that children are the only ones who behave appropriately at horror movies anymore.

"Appropriately" in this case meaning "getting scared during the proper scenes and sitting silently in apparent dread the rest of the time." I get it, America: you're cool and jaded and totally unaffected by what's going on onscreen. Good for you. Now shut the fuck up. This concept can be applied to most film genres, but if you feel the need to make wiseass comments during tense onscreen moments or laugh at otherwise inappropriate times, do everybody else a favor and wait until the movie's available at your local Redbox so you can take it home and give real-time DVD commentary to your heart's content.

Piracy isn't to blame for Hollywood's declining grosses so much as lousy product, exorbitant ticket prices, and the sheer torture going to the movies has become. If I want to spend a few hours with a bunch of boorish assholes, I'll go to a family reunion. At least then I can casually thump someone on the head to shut them up and not get brought up on charges. Given the sheer tonnage of jagoffs who treat every moviegoing experience like a roundtable discussion, it's no wonder audiences are staying away in droves.

I didn't mean for this review to become an exercise in spleen-venting. Insidious is actually not a bad horror movie (that's probably because it's not much more than Poltergeist with fewer killer trees). The ending is garbage, mostly because I'm tired of horror movies that don't end. [SPOILER WARNING] There should be some kind of codicil in the Writer's Guild contract that says at least one out of every ten horror flicks should actually give the family that's been tortured for two hours some kind of closure, happy or not. This "The end...?" shit got old after the first Halloween, and it's only gotten worse in the last ten year.[END SPOILER WARNING]

To be fair to the audience I just got done calling a bunch of assholes, Whannel and Wan play too much of the third act for laughs by introducing unnecessary comic relief in the form of the psychic's Ghost Hunter-style assistants (one played by Whannel himself). Their ultimate antagonist is pretty freaky, and certain elements of the Further are nicely done, but too much of it is a mish-mash of previous films, and it mostly feels like wasted potential. Or maybe they ran out of f/x money.

See it/Rent It/Skip It: Rent it. Then you can make all the hilarious jokes you want.

Insidious is in theaters today. If you do see it, leave any firearms in the car.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar