Monday, 8 August 2011

“They’re all trying to get inside his physical body”

Insidious: directed by James Wan; written by Leigh Whannell

From what I could tell Insidious was being sold on the apparent strength of the Paranormal Activity series. This didn’t actually work on me, though, because I’ve not seen any of the Paranormal Activity films. I’m not a fan of horror films – I’m either too nervy to enjoy them without my imagination running away with me; or I’m so caught in up solving all the plot-points that I overanalyse it to the point that I don’t feel anything for it. Somehow, Insidious fell through the tracks and I ended up seeing it, though. And as far as set-up goes, even though I’m not a devotee of the genre I could make out the obvious particulars. A conventional family moves into a house which seems to be haunted, and the haunts follow them when they move. But more than any other genre, I’d imagine that horror depends more on the feeling than the particulars and every horror film depends on a haunting but Insidious like its name offers more.
Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne star as our couple in distress, and it’s an immediately curious union. Both actors emanate a sort of steely grace about them so that it’s difficult to completely relish the authenticity in their performances. Even at her best Byrne always seems to be the slightest bit affected. Wilson, too, always seems to be on the wrong side of disarming often seeming more suspicious than dashing (a trait he put to good use in Little Children). And, even though they the turn in good work there's that feeling that they're oddly matched (as nice as they look together). Thus, I’m immediately moved to distrust the veneer of easiness which the film thwarts in all of ten minutes, anyhow. Before long one of the Lambert’s son Dalton enters a bizarre coma and before long the house seems to be acting up and before long a psychic, Elise, is brought in. Insidious harbours a surprisingly logical screenplay. The movement from subtle scares to larger ones is especially organic; the film isn’t interested in the most obvious of thrills.

The concept of possession has always been one that promises potential goodness and the manner in which the notion is handled here is striking. Lin Shave gives a fine performance as the psychic and in a scene (which serves as a set-up for the film’s actual climax) she sits at a table conducting some strange twist on a séance wearing a contraption that’s more ridiculous than horrific. Even if questions are left unanswered, it’s difficult to accuse the film of plot-holes and at the crux of the film as we enter a world referred to as “The Further” the dreamscape quality is beautifully rendered – it’s as much terrible as it is stunning to behold which only adds to the ramifications it unearths. Fantasy seems like such an obvious addendum to horror, and although the film seems more interested in its contemporary trappings Wan is especially adept at tying the fantastical with the horrific in the final act.
And, what an act. True, there’s a slight feeling of intertie in the last ten minutes – as if the film could have wrapped it all up more tidily. And the introduction of two...Ghostbusters ends up being more exasperating than comedic. Otherwise, though, the cast is uniformly game – Barbara Hershey in a small role is surprisingly moving. The final moments of the film live up to its title. More than granting us a visceral scare it leaves the audience with a palpable sense of unease so that at the end you’re tempted to go home and wash off all the traces of the insidiousness – as if your body was the one susceptible to the fiends.



Brandon B. said...

The whole thing fell apart in the second half so badly that the entire movie almost feels negligible and the better first half seems wasted. The subtlety and mystery of the first is offset when the ridiculously cliched supernatural element is added. Tonally inconsistent.

Paolo said...

I agree with Brandon. This holds so much promise but I appreciate the lighting. And that first house? Gorgeous. I wanna live there and will give up my firstborn for it.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

brandon / paolo maybe it's because my knowledge of the genre is low, but i don't find the latter half particularly cliched. sure, there are some references (i notice poltergeist for example) but it retains its own originality for the most part, i'd say.

Paolo said...

Dude, have you seen Suspiria? The last half of the film reminds me of the stylistic flourishes/indulgences in Dario Argento's stuff.