‘Insidious’ Revisited

         
 

20 October 2011| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

For horror, stay home from theaters this Halloween and put on Insidious. When it came out on April Fool’s Day earlier this year, it lit fire at the box office. I can see why. Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne star as parents who try to protect their child from phantoms that have confined the boy’s soul, with further plans to overtake his human body. In short, it is the only full-blown horror movie this year that scares you silly. Hokum it is, but it’s intense enough to make you surrender your reservations at least while it plays. Looking at the movie again, I think why it works is simply this: The cinematography is really, really first-rate. An intoxication really, something that is reminiscent of other cinematic head-trips like “Jacob’s Ladder” (1990) or “Altered States” (1980).

Insidious Part One

I just saw the new remake of “The Thing” and the camera bobbles up and down, and side to side, with too many close-ups that asphyxiate the actors. I hate how today’s commercial movie directors move their camera too damn much as well.

Now with “Insidious,” I cannot lie. James Wan the director does move the camera more often than not. But I realized the difference is that he knows how to move his camera with swoony ominousness. When he uses the camera to follow Rose Byrne and then lets the camera ascend up the stairs, it creates a consternation and foreboding. Her baby’s up there and there are demonic sounds that came from the walkie talkie, so she has to go.

I noticed this time that Wan uses a wide angle lens for nearly the entire movie. When he frames a person in the middle of his shot, and moves or sways the camera from there, it makes the content on the left and right of the frame have a sudden mystery. Because your eyes look here and there, waiting for anything to pop up. Look at how distressing it is watching Patrick Wilson, as the dad, sitting in the sofa while under hypnosis, and how much you peer on the left and right of that chair, ever so slightly out of focus and marked by indeterminate shadows. Referencing the poorness of “The Thing” once again, the director of that film uses poor imagination in photographing the monster – his angles and lenses are all very restrictive and you what you see up the middle of the shot is what you get.

The opening credits of “Insidious” are immediately entertaining, and spooky. The first séance presided by Lin Shaye as the psychic has a propulsive fury to it, Wan gives you a feeling as if the whole room is spinning. But it is the “astro-traveler” climax that puts you into giddy terror, a sequence so long that you find yourself amusingly counting how many times you scream. Wan uses colored smoke-stacks and lighting techniques that are either green-nausea or red-inferno suggestive. It’s not quite the Hell that I experienced on the big screen with images blown up in ghastly exaggerations on a 70-foot high screen, but on home video it is still so powerful it’s nothing less than a trance-out.

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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