Current in Theater Post: Insidious

7 Apr
How is her veil not catching fire? How?

Is your washroom breeding old lady ghosts?

If a friend had not asked me to go, I would probably not have seen Insidious in the theater, and truth be told it probably would have flown right through my radar without making much of an impression, otherwise. A lot of horror movies come out these days, and few of which are worth my time or money.

I’m definitely glad I went, though.

It’s not a diamond in the rough, it’s not a secret success–Insidious is one part atmospheric haunted house movie in the vein of The Others, one part magical realist/dark fantasy like House of Leaves or Clive Barker’s Thief of Always, and one part lurid freakfest. Unfortunately these themes are as clumsily meshed as the three acts of the film are mismatched, but each one on their own was entertaining.
 
The nonexistent segues made if feel as if I was watching one film made up of segments by 3 different directors; it reminded me of the old Tales from the Crypt series, which was a little 30 minute vignette written and directed by a variety of Hollywood’s finest and most creative. But while that works for a tv series, it doesn’t lend itself well to a film.
While the trappings of the movie–creaks, groans, mysterious things moving about, and eventually some pretty batshit-weird looking ghosts–are all fine, the story was fairly creative. There were flashes of some really interesting and innovative ideas here, but they just didn’t pan out.
Also problematic for me was the uneven tone of the movie. It starts out with Renai (Rose Byrne) and Whatsisface (Patrick Wilson, of Watchmen fame) and their three kids moving into a big old house where weird shit starts to happen. And of course, it begins happening to the wife, because when you’re driving this model of cliche wagon you had damn well better trot them all out. Women are emotional, so they have these dumb feelings, and that’s why ghosts go after and attack them. Cause they’re unable to ignore dumb shit like feelings.
What’s telling is the creepily static gender roles espoused in the movie: in the first half, when ghosts are passive-aggressively making their presence known, only the female notices and reacts predictably, freaking out, screaming, crying, etc. When things get serious and action is needed, the movie literally switches protagonists and the male becomes the center of focus.
If they had wanted to do something really interesting, they might have taken a leaf out of The Devil’s Advocate’s book; in that, we did not see the things that were happening to the wife, which made them that much harder to accept as real, and that much easier to dismiss her problems as imagined or the result of a mental illness. Imagine each day the guy comes home and his wife is acting weirder and weirder, to the point where he doesn’t know if he trusts her with his kids anymore.
Here’s my theory on the current psychology behind these ghost movies where women are the protagonists:
The ghosts, who are being passive-aggressive with their ‘walking around in the background’ and moving objects around shit, are weakly requesting attention. The stereotypical assumption is that women are better at noticing nuances of behavior, and are more likely to notice these types of behaviors. Men need more direct interaction, and only become involved when furniture flies around and the walls start oozing blood, again on the assumption that men don’t recognize nuanced behaviors as well. All of which is horseshit, but is the faulty logic upon which haunted house/woman in peril movies operate. /rant
Anyhoodle, Insidious is fun like a decent haunted house ride; there are scares, and the atmospherics in the beginning are pretty awesome. It’s a shame the ride had to make a stop in Clichetown along the way. And it introduces one of the more creepy haunted house characters i’ve seen recently, a character I shall only refer to as Darth Goat. See it for him, at least, but maybe wait until it’s on video.
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