Sunday, June 12, 2011

Insidious: they say the title in the movie

Before you ask, yes, they say the title in the movie. So it makes sense.

The rest of the movie, not so much. That doesn't mean it's bad. It means you get everything you could hope for from a PG-13 haunted house money. Nothing more and, thankfully, nothing less.

There's a lack of gore, which one would expect given the rating. But a close look at the credits might lead one to believe there would be more blood. "Insidious" was written Leigh Whannell and directed by James Wan. You could say they started the modern "torture porn" with the "Saw" franchise. "Saw" has been the most successful horror franchise of the century and recent deliveries have only been beaten by the two "Paranormal Activity" movies.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. One of the producers of "Insidious" is Oren Peli, the producer/director of "Paranormal Activity."

Unfortunately, this team-up wasn't able to come up with much original material. Unlike in the recently released "Super 8," the trite haunted house gimmicks don't feel fresh or even filtered through new eyes. The plot (ghost children, scary noises, potential demon possession, supernatural tendencies passed from father to son, old lady psychic and her bumbling ghost hunter team) develops as expected. You can call it predictable or you can call it exactly what you paid for.

"Insidious" does have some excellent visuals, however. Lin Shaye as the psychic speaking into her steno mask is noteworthy. Expect to see a similar image, right down to the old lady, if Stephen King's "Bag of Bones" ever reaches the screen. That book came out in 1998, so it's a safe bet King used it first. Try not to think of it and just enjoy the moment.

The various ghouls of the film, the malevolent and the accidental, look like they were pulled from a top-tier haunted attraction. With only a $1.5 million budget, you get what you pay for. The make-up looks great but it's not going to win any awards.

If "Insidious" is worthy of any awards, it would be for Patrick Wilson as the patriarch of this haunted family. He looks distant. When Rose Byrne as Wilson's wife, tells him he isn't really there, in the situation, I totally buy it. Wilson is somewhere else other than acting in this movie.

Now for the big twist.

I actually liked this movie. Like I've been saying, I got exactly what I expected. Some good jump moments, good make-up, a particularly effective use of Tiny Tim's "Tiptoe Through the Tulips," and enough suspense to not be too disappointed in the outcome. If you have a 13-year-old that wants to go to a scary movie, "Insidious" isn't the worst choice you could make.

Threat level:YELLOW. No rush. With an early April theatrical release, it probably won't be at the cineplex much longer, but a July 12 DVD and Blu-ray release is scheduled.

"Insidious" is rated PG-13. Written by Leigh Whannell, directed by James Wan, produced by Oren Peli, Jason Blum, Aaron Sims, and Steven Schnieder. Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, and Lyn Shaye star.

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