Insidious Review

For the past couple of decades or so, the genre of horror has become somewhat of a minefield. With the film industry so over saturated with overdone plots and jump scares, the clever and inventive movies often slip through the cracks in the form of independent productions. Films like It Follows and Tucker and Dale vs. Evil received little attention upon their initial release, while films like Paranormal Activity maintain constant popularity.

Nonetheless, occasionally moviegoers get a widely released horror flick that manages to bring something new to the table, even if that ‘something new’ is minute. A fine example of this being Insidious.

Directed by James Wan (maker of such films as The Conjuring and Saw), Insidious didn’t revolutionize the genre or shy away from the mainstream. What it did do was put a new twist on the now conventional horror formula, making it a film that appeals to many different audience tastes without being polarizing.

Insidious stars Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne as Josh and Renai, a couple who move into a new home in the suburbs. Soon after moving in their child Dalton (Ty Simpkins) tragically slips into a coma, and strange things begin to happen around the house. They quickly realize something supernatural is afoot, and enlist in the help of a parapsychologist named Elise (Lin Shaye). Elise informs them that their child isn’t actually in a coma. Rather, Dalton had an out of body experience that left his spirit trapped in a ghostly place she refers to as The Further. It is now up to them to save Dalton’s spirit from The Further before he is stuck there for good, and something more sinister takes his place.

A good horror flick doesn’t only lie within the bounds of its actors capabilities, but having performers that can convey the fright is always a plus. Wilson and Byrne lead the cast wonderfully here, perfectly portraying a distraught couple worried sick over the wellbeing of their child.

Their performances are complemented well by the addition of Lin Shaye about halfway through. What’s great about Shaye’s acting is that she seamlessly convinces the audience that the far-fetched sci-fi jargon is in fact genuine. Even those who are skeptical of science fiction in films will buy into the absurd rationale this movie relies on. Rather than jump the shark, Insidious somehow managed to slide under the shark.

The frightening sequences in the film are quite tactfully employed, mixing inventive and clever ideas with more conventional methods. We get the quick, one and done jump scares that many moviegoers love, but also see plenty of built up moments that get big payoffs. There are even scenes that don’t have any sort of payoff, but are authentically creepy because of the eerie atmosphere that’s created.

The eerie atmosphere is mostly due to the aesthetics of the Further, which are distinct and artistic without looking too forced to be that way. This creepy imagery is accompanied with a truly fantastic musical score that managed to intensify a lot of the more suspenseful scenes.

Again, Insidious didn’t subvert the genre or change the game completely, as we still get plenty of terrible horror films today (like the fourth installment of this franchise). What I believe Insidious (and its creative contemporaries) did accomplish was to pave the way for other mainstream horror flicks to get imaginative, so to speak. Films like Lights Out and The Conjuring have received critical and box office success since the release of Insidious, and both ride the line of conventionality too.

I hope to see more inventive and fun horror films in the future, especially from the Insidious director James Wan.

The Verdict: A-

-Zachary Flint

Insidious: The Last Key Review

As we gracefully enter the new year of 2018, I remain hopeful that we’ll get plenty of insightful and clever films. Unfortunately, January is often the worst month for films, and a horrible way to begin the year. Cited as being a “dump month”, January is host to a slew of poor-quality, bottom of the barrel leftovers from last year.

And this time we’re kicking off January with the not-so-anticipated Insidious: The Last Key.

The film stars Lin Shaye, reprising her role as the friendly neighborhood psychic named Elise. This time we delve deep into Elise’s tragic backstory (how typical), as we learn how her powers to talk to those beyond our world developed. Introducing new characters and settings important to Elise’s traumatic past, Insidious: The Last Key takes us deep into The Further for one last time (at least, one can only hope).

The Last Key was about as tiresome and worn as the title may suggest. Once a film series that attempted to bring creativity to the dying genre of horror, Insidious finally gives into the cookie-cutter, paint-by-numbers methods of most modern-day horror flicks. Just look at the entity of the film, which was conjured in a corporate board meeting. Indistinguishable and lame, he’s basically just a spooky locksmith.

Not even jump scare enthusiasts will enjoy watching The Last Key, as it was surprisingly void of any scares at all. The few jump scares that did occur were much more annoying than frightening, but overall The Last Key didn’t have much going on in the horror department.

Lin Shaye as Elise gave the best performance she could under these circumstances, but many of her scenes meant to be emotional and heartfelt came off as laughably cheesy. Even her two sidekick friends, who gave much needed comic relief in the previous installments, were written in the most obnoxious way imaginable. Lighthearted moments involving both these characters were all too cringeworthy, and made me and the audience I saw this with groan more than laugh.

In multiple instances The Last Key drums up plot points that it leads the audience to believe are important, then decidedly never revisits them. As if the writer just forgot.

Speaking of poor writing, in a rather distasteful maneuver the film attempts to tie itself in with the previous Insidious movies. As if to remind the viewer, “yes, the film you’re currently watching is somehow related to this better film”. This comes at the tail end of The Last Key, and actually has some hilariously messed up continuity between the films. It’s in fact so blatant that I’m not even sure if the director saw any of the previous Insidious films.

Filled with tired clichés and unintentionally funny scenes, Insidious: The Last Key is unlikely to hit the bull’s-eye for anybody. The inconsistent rules and poor continuity surely won’t please fans of the series, and those who actually enjoy jump scares will probably find this film overwhelmingly dull. With no new scares and no new ideas, I hardly feel this was a story that was necessary to tell.

The Verdict: D-

-Zachary Flint

40 Years of Horror: Best Horror Films By Year 1975-2015 (In Pictures)

My picks for some of the best horror related films of the past few decades.

1975: Jaws

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1976: The Omen

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Runner Up: Carrie

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1977: Suspiria

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Runner Up: The Hills Have Eyes

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1978: Halloween

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Runner Up: Dawn of the Dead

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1979: Alien

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1980: The Shining

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Runner Up: Friday the 13th

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1981: The Evil Dead

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1982: The Thing

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Runner Up: Poltergeist

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1983: Twilight Zone: The Movie

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1984: A Nightmare on Elm Street

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1985: Re-Animator

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1986: Aliens

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1987: Evil Dead II

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Runner Up: Hellraiser

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1988: They Live

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Runner Up: Child’s Play

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1989: Pet Sematary

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1990: Arachnophobia

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1991: Silence of the Lambs

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1992: Candyman

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1993: Leprechaun

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1994: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

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1995: Se7en

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1996: From Dusk Till Dawn

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Runner Up: Scream

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1997: Anaconda

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1998: Ringu

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1999: Audition

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Runner Up: The Sixth Sense

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2000: American Psycho

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2001: The Others

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2002: 28 Days Later

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Runner Up: The Ring

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2003: House of 1000 Corpses

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2004: Shaun of the Dead

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Runner Up: Saw

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2005: Hostel

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2006: Slither

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2007: Planet Terror

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2008: The Strangers

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2009: Orphan

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2010: Insidious

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2011: The Cabin in the Woods

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2012: V/H/S

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2013: The Conjuring

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Runner Up: Mama

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2014: It Follows

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Runner Up: The Babadook

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2015: Krampus

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Zachary Flint