Tiptoe through the tulips….

Hey Folks,

 

So I know it’s been a long time coming, I promised this over a month ago. It would have been sooner if Wall Cat hadn’t bent me over a barrel over that two week long breach of contract. Luckily the long delay has only created a kind of distillation of thought on our topic today. As I’m writing this I’m watching Insidious for the sixth time.

By the way this is a movie review...I mentioned that right?

(And have successfully bullied Bright Dyke into giving it a whirl…in the daytime…with Ben & Jerry’s handy.)

 

I seriously need a twelve step program for this

Now before we get into it I feel the need to provide a little back-story about the first time I sat through this thing.  I had been seeing the somewhat uninspiring trailer for weeks, and every time I saw it all I kept thinking was, “Haunted Kid Movie, I can wait for DVD.” Because I LOVE James Wan and Leigh Whannell, but this thing just didn’t look innovative enough to justify doubling my theater budget for April.

 

Perhaps if you skipped the Rosie O'Donnell sized popcorn?...

 

Fuck you.

As some of you may remember April 2011 had not one but two major Horror releases, Insidious and the highly anticipated and reverently fandangoed Scream 4. Now I understand I was dumping Insidious for not being innovative and then planning on seeing a slasher reboot/sequel, and I have no excuse for this now. I had waited two long years since it’s announcement to watch Sydney Prescott go one more round with Ghost Face and I couldn’t fucking wait! But that’s a discussion for another time. (It hits DVD October 4th, which is absolutely perfect timing for reasons I’ll explain in two weeks or so.)

 

I wonder if they're ever going to mention the sequel rule? Number 5 always sucks...

Either way I was absolutely prepared to wait for July and Redbox this thing, I Fandangoed my ticket for Scream 4, found a midnight showing buddy, in this case the incomparable Scare Bear whom is my favorite semi-gay man on the planet and an awesome wing man for these things. (For the record midnight showings are the only time that it is totally excusable to go to the movies solo, but it’s still not recommended.) But there was one problem.

 

Midnight showings start at midnight and I was bored…at eight o’clock.

 

So Scare Bear and I did a little digging and found that there was a ten o’clock showing of Insidious at the same theater. Problem solved! We’d see the clunker as an appetizer and then turn to Wes Craven to save the proverbial day with meta-tastic humor and delicious Hayden Pannettiere.

 

No I will never stop posting this photo

Boy were we ever wrong.

 

Scream 4 was like going on the tilt-a-whirl after riding the most badass coaster in the park.

 

Because Insidious is Insidious is AWESOME.

That's her terror face

 

 

I misjudged this movie BIG TIME and I nearly lived to regret it.  I have never been that scared in a movie theater. I say this with complete sincerity and respect; I have never, ever wanted to cover my eyes so badly. I’ve never felt myself shaking in anticipation of a scare, and I have never, ever, ever been UNABLE to sleep in my own bed after seeing a movie before. Insidious changed that.

Changed what?

 

So here’s the disclaimer: this review is going to be in depth and pretty damn serious (by Fright Dyke standards) because when I like something the funny suffers, sorry folks.

 

 

So anyway let’s get this thing underway.

 

 

 

Fast Facts

 

Insidious is about a young family, the Lamberts who move into a new home and are besieged by problems of the paranormal variety following the oldest son Dalton’s descent into a coma following an accident. They move houses and the problems persist leading to the tagline “It’s not the house that’s haunted” after several months of paranormal happenings, the family enlists a psychic investigator to help. At which point the movie takes a turn for the truly out there and we find out that this isn’t a real ‘haunting’.  It’s something much, much worse.

 

so much worse...

It’s written by Leigh Whannell and Directed by James Wan, if those names look familiar to you they should. The two Aussies are responsible for the first three SAW films (y’know the good ones) and Dead Silence an odd but interesting little ghost story. I love them, they’re smart, they’re not afraid to work outside the tropes and they create believable characters. (Whannell’s dialogue is particularly good, a rarity in horror.)

 

Cast

 

This is his 'you're shitting me' face

Patrick Wilson- Your protagonist ladies and gentleman he does a really nice job as Josh Lambert the patriarch of the family and a flawed but ultimately sympathetic hero. He’s also a vet of Hard Candy and in the non-horror world Watchmen and Little Children.

 

this is her 'what the fuck was that?' face

Rose Byrne- Renee Lambert, Josh’s wife and the only person who seems to be consistently noticing the weird shit that’s encompassing her life. She’s a little one dimensional but it kind of works in this role. Also seen in 28 Weeks Later and Knowing.

 

this is his 'bored now' face

Ty Simpkins- Dalton Lambert, the kid that’s haunted/much worse than haunted, let’s get one thing very clear; I hate little kids in horror movies they’re always annoying and take the plot in directions I can’t stand. I loved this kid he’s adorable and extremely likable, and while that has a little to do with Whannell’s script, it has a lot more to do with this little guy’s acting ability. This is his first true horror movie but he did do The War of the Worlds remake when he was three.

 

this is her...not her face

Lin Shaye- Plays the psychic investigator Elise Rainier, now for those of you picturing the late great Zelda Rubenstein and getting your sneer face on already. Ms. Shaye was great, she is utterly believable and lends some hefty doses of credibility to what could have been some truly goofy explanation sequences, she essentially makes the whole movie work because I’m willing to listen to her. Also Ms. Shaye is beyond a genre vet, and while her roles have never been huge her resume includes Nightmare on Elm Street(o-1984), Alone in the Dark (o-1982), Critters, Critters 2, Amityville: A New Generation, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, 2001 Maniacs, Snakes On A Plane, 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams and that’s leaving shit out! Including several more horror flicks due out this year or next, and ignoring her mainstream work.

 

This is her keepin it real face

Barbara Hershey-Plays Josh’s mother and does a nice job of it, though I can’t tell if all of the creepy undertones to her character were intentional or not. The Entity, Riding the Bullet and Black Swan also to her credit.

 

Adam Astor- Plays Foster, the younger of the two Lambert brothers in one of my favorite performances in the movie, again little kids not being annoying is a big plus for this movie, he’s never done a horror movie before Insidious but I hope that his credit sheet gets longer. Like to the point where I can find a picture of him.

 

 

Observations

 

There’s a lot going on in this film and it’s overwhelmingly good, I’ve only really got one beef with it but we’ll come back to that, let’s start with the REAL good stuff.

 

The scares are incredible, there’s some really good, really subtle, visceral fright craft in this film and the ones that hit you over the head with a sledgehammer DON’T feel like jump-scares because they’re DONE RIGHT THANK YOU JEEESUS!

 

This movie is essentially a master class in creating tension and then breaking it in very satisfying, shriek inducing ways. There aren’t any ‘cat in the cupboard’ scares where we ratchet up with the intensity for a bait and switch payoff, if you think you’re about to see something terrible…you are…every time. For genre lovers this is kind of a mindfuck because we have come to expect the letdown scare, the ‘What was that noise? Holy Shit!….Oh nevermind’  moment that completely takes you out of the movie.

 

This isn’t to say Insidious warns you every time you’re going to see something (Several of the BEST scares are out of the blue) but if it does give you the signals…they aren’t EVER going to be mixed.

 

seriously does he look like he's screwing around?

The ‘entities’ are actually frightening. That’s kind of a big deal for a movie like this. There aren’t any goofy looking monster trees or severed human hands wreaking havoc. Just a lot of people in very good…very creepy makeup.

 

Though that isn’t to say that Insidious needs to show you anything to creep you right the fuck out. Audio scares are tricky in any movie, the noise has to be sufficiently frightening on it’s own and then on top of that; when you finally show what’s making it…it had better live up to whatever the audience had pictured in their heads I mean no one wants a repeat of Blair Witch Project here. But this movie totally delivers.

 

Ok for those of you who haven’t seen the film I’m going to go into detail on the two worst spooks for me in this flick so…you know go watch the damn thing and come back.

 

 

Also Nanci...if you've read this far...ponies and sunshine

 

 

1.Creepy Old Woman/Guy in Drag.

 

No that’s not a misprint watch the behind the scenes stuff. That is a man in drag…and he did NOT fuck it up hunty. (I love Rupaul’s Drag race…fuck you). Anyway the best thing about this character is how instinctual the fear is, we get more back-story on her than on any other entity in the film but we don’t really need it. Of course by back-story what I mean is we see a ton of pictures of her/him acting all creepy and stalkerish with Josh when he was a kid. Not helping. There is a predatory feel to this character in the first 3 seconds she’s on screen and all she does is smile and blow out a candle.

 

Oh shit they've learned how to use fire...

 

2. Gregory

 

Obviously that’s not his real name, it’s just another entry on the long list of things that scare the piss out of me which require a kind of cutesy familiar moniker to allow me to sleep while possessing the knowledge that I have seen them on my television screen…like in my apartment…where I sleep.

 

Now my one big beef with this movie has to do with Gregory but we’re going to get to that in a moment and I feel the need to give him his due before we get there. This is the first time we ‘see’ him during an extraordinarily creepy dream POV sequence narrated by Barbara Hersey.

 

Creeeeeeeeeper....

 

Wall Cat seems to feel my fear is unjustified...

And this is the second time…half a minute later…with no warning just…

 

BOOM

 

 

OH HOLY MOTHERFUCKING JESUS WHAT THE CRAP SHIT IS THAT!?!!

 

eep

That is the point gentle readers that I am unashamed to say I lost my shit in the theater and spent the rest of the movie practically spooning with an equally terrified Scare Bear. For no other reason than I NEVER WANTED TO SEE THAT THING AGAIN.

 

This is also the point in the film where I decided that this movie was awesome. And forgiving the one major shortcoming to follow, I still say it’s awesome. The split second Greg-o is on screen here made me fear the villain…big time and that is something that is surprisingly difficult to do to me. This is the white whale of supernatural horror making the supernatural element so terrifying that it’s still with you hours, days or months after the first time you clap eyes on it and it has been VERY difficult for me to go to the bathroom at night because of this bastard.

 

Though I had very little trouble going in my pants...

 

Which is why the third act makes me so mad.

 

Yup this is the pitfall for this one, the ending. Now this would not be the first Fright Dyke fan favorite to have a shit resolution (IT anyone?) but the difference in quality between the movie we’ve been discussing to this point and the third act is astonishing. Now to be clear I’m not talking about the astral projection thing. I actually thought that was kind of interesting, and certainly original. I’m talking about the BULLSHIT level fight scene in Gregory’s lair.

 

You’ve spent the entire movie making me fear the big bad, making me sweat at the IDEA of him and all of a sudden he’s having a half assed slap fight with Patrick Wilson?

 

You made a point of giving him creepy as fuck sound cues and mentioning that he has a terrible disturbing voice…why is there little to none of this in the confrontation scene? He never speaks to the audience, I mean for the love of God I’m not asking for a soliloquy here but give Tim Curry or Jackie Earle Haley twenty bucks to record a spine tingling laugh or something.

 

 

For 40 dollars he will insult your mother...and you will totally pay him

Final Thoughts

 

Insidious for the first hour is everything I want in a horror movie, it’s suspenseful, it’s direct, it takes it’s production values seriously and they paid attention to detail. The third act derails it.  That being said I still think it’s worth a watch, if only to get through the scream gauntlet leading up to the disappointing finish.  I’ll give it an 8 out of 10 and that’s probably being generous.

 

 

But I’m already taking a substantial risk accusing Gregory of being involved in a slap fight…

 

 

 

 

HE'LL HEAR YOU!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your sleep deprived Screamstress,

 

 

 

~Fright Dyke

 

 

Author’s Note: Fright Dyke would like to thank Oliver Florian Blask for his time and modeling prowess.

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One Response to “Tiptoe through the tulips….”

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