After one week of horror gaming goodness, we’ll start our countdown for Halloween with the three frightening Insidious movies.
(USA 2010, director: James Wan)
The Lambert’s son falls into a coma, but the family soon realizes that he needs a medium rather than doctors, as his soul is caught between two worlds, with his body inviting evil spirits to cross the border.
James Wan is maybe best known for the first Saw movies, but he also did the lesser known scary movie Dead Silence about a doll that kills people during absolute silence. Compared to his gory but intelligent first movie, it was a departure that didn’t go too well with most people despite being quite good. So it comes as a surprise to see him do another attempt at frightening his audience with subtle horror and no bloodshed. Insidious borrows heavily from Poltergeist and exorcism movies, but the way how the story starts as a drama and slowly builds up to the supernatural is quite original. However, one has to accept certain ridiculous parts, e.g. a medium (played extremely well by Lin Shaye who’s had so many countless roles in horror movies) wearing a gas mask that is connected to one of her colleagues’ ears so that she can describe what she sees and he can write it down, or that one of the nastier demons looks like a cheap Darth Maul imitation (see Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace).
If one can look past these scenes, then the movie offers enough chills, especially when one is drawn into The Further, the other world where spirits try to communicate with the living, are lost and need guidance or simply want to violently enter the bodies of the living. It becomes extremely disturbing and shows that Wan knows how to create atmosphere with a soundtrack that is just as unsettling as the use of carefully placed scare jumps. Despite never feeling safe, there’s a bit of dry humor of the medium’s two nerdy colleagues that helps to get through all the horrible faces and locations one sees. In general, the movie might not reinvent the horror genre, but together with a surprising ending, it’s a very entertaining and fun scary ride.
Insidious: Chapter 2
(USA/Canada/UK 2013, director: James Wan)
The Lambert family is again haunted by a malevolent spirit in the form of an old woman in a bridal dress that has attached itself on the father since he was a child.
The movie continues from where the first one left of, so it’s essential to watch it, and without spoiling too much, suffice it to say that the background story of the woman is quite disturbing. Just like the first one, the suspense slowly builds up and is a mix of supernatural and psycho thriller that has a great finale and enough scary moments to keep the audience at the edge of their seats, although it doesn’t come without problems. Using hand camera recordings that should be frightening don’t add much to the suspense, and it takes too much time until all the loose ends are finally tied together.
It’s telling that going back to The Further offers the strongest and most memorable scenes, with story-lines of the past and present mixed up in an original if rather head-spinning way. The sequel might not be as concise in storytelling as the first one, but it has stronger acting performances and persevering through a few boring parts ultimately pays off in the end.
Insidious: Chapter 3
(USA/Canada/UK 2015, director: Leigh Whannell)
Teenager Quinn Brennan tries to contact her dead mother, but finds herself attacked by a demonic presence, made even worse because of being almost bed-ridden after an accident.
Prequels are usually considered to be a quick cash-in or a way to prevent people from losing interest in a franchise when the next instalment needs some more time. If done right and all the ingredients of the original(s) are present and correct, it can add more information to a backstory essential for the next movie, if done wrong, it can all be a waste of time. Unfortunately, the third chapter is a forgettable entry in the series.
The biggest problem is that despite seeing the charismatic medium again and fleshing her out a bit by making the audience learn more about her fear of her profession and showing how she met her nerdy colleagues which again work as a comic relief, the main story lacks suspense, which is mainly due to a creature that might look scary, but one that doesn’t have a background and simply serves as a substitute boogeyman. The rest of the characters are uninteresting and the pacing of the movie is too slow, so one doesn’t really care what happens to them. Where the first two movies slowly built up to an often unbearable horror scenario, there are too many dialogues that desperately try to establish a connection between the victim(s) and the audience. The Further sequences and some of the exorcism scenes are disturbing, but they don’t help the movie to step over the border of mediocrity.
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