Home > Patton Notes > A Note on ‘Insidious’

A Note on ‘Insidious’

thanks, movie poster, now I have to look up the distinction between "further" and "farther"

With more and more close friends starting to get positions in film and television it can become difficult remain objective when watching movies they’ve worked on.  It becomes even more difficult when you’re joining that friend, along with others, to watch the movie during its opening weekend. So, from two weeks ago. Opening film: Insidious.  Location: The Grove.  In attendance: a small group of film friends, myself and my wife.  Our friend’s position: additional editor. The Wife and I arrived a bit late, right in the middle of the previews and were feeling a bit rushed, but sat comfortably, calmed down and got ready for this latest movie from James Wan, the director of the original Saw. Knowing Wan I was anticipating another gore fest style film that passes off as horror these days. Wan surprises us by resisting the temptation to “gross out” and gives us some genuine thrills – but that doesn’t excuse some very clear flaws.

He manages to build slow tension through the first two acts, which a lot of credit goes to the pacing provided by some pretty tight editing.  Alaniz, if you’re responsible for any of that, well done.  Yet, it’s a very typical horror film setup; a seemingly perfect family gets a new house and slowly things start to haunt them.  It’s a bit eerie and it’s fun to whisper back and forth with The Wife – did you see something in that shadow? didn’t she already put those books away? I think I hear children voices, why are kids’ voices so scary? oh! shit, what just crossed camera? I see a face in the drapes!! And goosebumps. Jumps. An early scare is the best in the film done with a quick edit and hard-hitting bass sound effect. It made my stomach sink through my back and I felt a throb from my heart in my abdominal cavity that was now vacant, because remember my stomach exited out my lower back.

But lulls occur.  We’re given too much time to think and inevitably logic starts to creep into your mind.  It has to.  I’ve mentioned the suspension of disbelief before, it’s essential to watching a movie and was one of the first screenwriting lessons I was ever taught (thank you William Missouri Downs).  But logic has to creep into your mind.  I’m a logical creature, we are all, aren’t we?  Most of us any way?  But when you are creating a world, which is exactly what filmmaking is, you’re creating a world and inviting an audience along, then you must create and adhere to your own logic.  I don’t care what it is. You can create a world in which gravity apparently exists in space and you can freely walk around the Millenium Falcon (and i don’t care if some fanboy knows a device that explains this phenomenon).  You can create a world where angels walk among us and listen to the sunrise (that’s a Wings of Desire reference, do not think City of Angels you damned philistine). But once you create the world you are now directly and indirectly communicating some logic of this world to your audience and they are going to see the holes.  This is when the whispers become less fun.  It’s more like you’re trying to solve a puzzle that you feel you should enjoy, but you’re starting to wonder if you were given all the right pieces.  Or many given too many!  Why do I have six corner pieces? AH!

– why is that ghost licking her face? – why does he look like Bane from Batman? – why would a ghost listen to Tiny Tim? why would a person listen to Tiny Tim? – what do you mean they aren’t ghosts? – (spoiler alert!) what do you mean the boy is haunted? then why were they going after the mother all the time? – did that chick just put on a gas mask to talk to the ghosts, or what, the what are you calling them? Entities? Just spirits then?- is this turning into a comedy horror? No? – why is this the dad’s quest all of the sudden, haven’t we been following the mom?  – who’s story is this?? – that demon is listening to Tiny Tim now, what the f#@!? – is he not a demon? – what the hell is the Further, you lazy screenwriter?

It becomes exhausting. And once it starts, it’s a slippery slope. There was a world created in which the mom is experiencing a real haunting. This has become a world where she is in need, she needs to grow, so why the shift in focus?  There weren’t many problems with the direction, there was a good mix of some comedy in the thrills.  The editing was tight and told the story, especially through the first two acts (it starts to get hairy in the third act).  The problem is solely in the script causing a big story issue and in the end distracting heavily from some of the film’s actual merit.

And we sat through the credits to see the names of people we knew, then walked next door to the Cheesecake Factory, 45 minute wait. We walked down to the Whispers lounge at The Grove, we check the menu and prices.  We walked across the street to a barbecue restaurant without giving any consideration to the vegan in our group, get a table, get a 25oz beer, a patron margarita and a steak sandwich.  During the meal we are of course regaled by stories of the post process on the film, stories about the director and we congratulate our friend because it’s fantastic that he has a movie in the theaters, he did fantastic job (as did the entire editing staff with what they were given) and if you can get past the story issues, the bizarre third act and if you can stop thinking about where you know that psychic from (it’s Lin Shaye and she was the leathery woman in There’s Something About Mary) they you might just enjoy this film for the quick scares that it provides.

Categories: Patton Notes Tags:
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.