Monday, April 4, 2011

Insidious: Things That Go Bump In the Light

I’ve seen a lot of horror movies.  Hundreds of them actually, I’ll watch most horror movies even when I know they won’t be scary (because at the very least, it might be unintentionally funny) and I can absolutely say that I have been legitimately scared by 8, maybe 10 films in my entire life.  I don’t get frightened by vampires & werewolves (who does these days).  Slasher movies always seem to follow the same pacing and repeatedly kill the same kinds of people over and over to the point that some viewers seem to enjoy the predictability. The haunted house subgenre lost a lot of its impact thanks to the overuse of CGI that demanded that the viewer a good, long look at the thing that goes bump in the night because the special effect shots cost millions of dollars. 

That This Cost Millions of $$$ is Horrifying!
 An abundance of gore invokes disgust for me but never does it create a sensation of approaching dread that makes your stomach feel shrunken and cold inside. To very loosely paraphrase author Stephen King:  not knowing what is behind a closed door is more terrifying than actually opening the door, because what you see in your imagination is worse than what a film maker can create.  In short, the suggestion of the unknown gives you the creeps.

The last film that gave me the creeps was Kairo, a 2001 Japanese film by Kiyoshi Kurosawa (which was remade, poorly, for North American audiences in 2006). It was one of the lesser known and slower moving of the j-horror films that were so popular in the 00’s but it kept me up at night, surprisingly, by opening the aforementioned closed door and showing us what was behind it.  At first, you’re struck by the commonness of the surroundings until she appears: 

It took me nearly two weeks to watch that scene to the end.  Yes, that’s right, two weeks in the daylight and I haven’t watched that scene since. I looked over my shoulder just linking that damn clip. Now, I’m pretty sure someone has stumbled across this blog looking for pictures of Grace Park in a bikini and is thinking “That’s not scary”.  To you I say, get the hell off my blog right now.  What makes this scene so unwatchable is how it doesn’t meet your expectations.  You expect a monster, a jump cut with a screeching noise or a headless torso when the door opens, but what’s actually seen is quite banal: a woman walking down a hallway. It’s only as she gets closer to you that you realize that something is wrong, really wrong.  I couldn’t count how many nightmares I had where I found myself running from some nameless thing only to find I couldn’t get away since time itself seemed to have stopped and every step away from unending fear took a lifetime to complete, just like this scene.

Insidious found a way to tap into my nightmares as Kairo did: by tapping into my nightmares. I’m a lifelong sleepwalker and I also suffer from night terrors: a sleep disorder in which the sufferer experiences extreme terror and the temporary inability to regain consciousness. When I have a night terror, I think I’m wide awake but I’m not.  I have tried to break out of my home and jump out of a second story window while experiencing night terrors.  During one of my most memorable episodes with this disorder, I saw a man with pitch black skin, a blood red face and filthy yellow eyes crawl out from underneath my bed and then he screamed right in my face.  I was so terrified; I jumped out of  my bed and ran right into my 4 shelf bookcase.  That woke me up.  It happened over 10 years ago but I still remember it as if it happened yesterday.  So you could imagine what my reaction was when this happened:
My Dream Man...And Patrick Wilson
After nearly bolting from the theatre convinced that he had finally come to claim my immortal soul, I was proud of Red Face Guy for working his way up from just horrifying me to causing millions of other people to crap their pants too.  What got me about this scene wasn’t just the physical resemblance to my old nightmare man but the similarly mundane setting.  In my nightmare, I thought it was morning, the sun was shining in my room and I thought ever thing was normal.  Then I rolled over and BAM! Right into the bookcase! In Insidious, the characters are merely sitting at a kitchen table during the day and recounting past events when that thing starts leering over Patrick Wilson’s shoulder. Maybe there is a collective subconscious after all.  It’s unexpected and effective to show the thing that goes bump in the light and much of the film’s better scares occur during the day, over in a corner so that one may not even notice something is off.

Insidious isn’t a perfect horror film, but it’s a pretty good one that was much better than I expected it to be. What makes it even more notable is that Insidious was made for around $800,000, a mere fraction of what Mars Needs Moms cost and will most likely end up out grossing that costly failure by its second weekend.  I bet that thought makes movie producers wake up screaming...

Friday, April 1, 2011

Yet Another Change to the New TV Wonder Woman Costume!

Two small changes make for a big improvement.  If they would change the bustier to a darker leather, you'd hear no complaints from me anymore.  Actually, I'm kind of bored by all this now, so maybe this topic is done for me!