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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My Really Long Review of Insidious

I'm tired, and I'd like to go to bed, but Insidious traumatized me.



Okay - I know what you're thinking. The first time I saw the trailer for Insidious, I thought, "That looks ridiculous and stupid. I don't want to see that." Then Roger Ebert told me it was quite good, and I thought, "Well... maybe."

Me and Eric decided we wanted to go see a movie tonight, and the only two he wanted to see were Hop or Insidious. And I wasn't in the mood for Hop, so I chose Insidious. When we got to the theater, I saw it was PG-13, and I was like, "Oh no, this'll be crap."

(Side note: Before Insidious, they had a trailer for Guillermo del Toro's latest production Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. It was the first time I'd seen the trailer in theaters, although I had seen it before, and that looks like it will be terrifying fun). 

But let me tell you - it scared the hell out of me. I can honestly say I haven't been that scared during a movie in my entire life, and I watch a lot of movies. For comparison purposes, my favorite scary movies are: The Hills Have Eyes, 28 Days Later, and Pan's Labyrinth. (I don't care if Pan's Labyrinth isn't technically horror - the thing with the hands is the most terrifying movie creature of all time).

When we were leaving the theater (and I was still shaking in terror - something that has never happened to me before), Eric commented, "It was like they took the part that scared me the most in The Exorcist and turned it into a whole movie." And that's fairly accurate.

A few months ago, I had a brain storming session with Eric where I talked about what would make the scariest movie ever. After some talk, we came up with a lot of ideas. I worked out a rough idea of a horror novel, but I'm totally scrapping it now. Because everything we talked about was in that movie.

Insidious was totally brilliant. Leigh Whannel and James Wan clearly studied other horror films and learned from them. I expected something usual with a few scares like The Ring, but this was done so well, and the storyline was actually pretty good, too.

Here's a minor spoiler but not really: Usually in horror movies like this, the wife goes, "The house is haunted we need to leave!" And the husband goes, "No, you're just crazy. Let's stay, despite all the weird stuff is happening." But in this movie, fairly early on, the wife goes, "The house is haunted! I can't take it here!" And the husband - displaying a stunningly level-head for a horror movie goes - says, "Okay. We'll do what we need to do." And then they moved.

I have never in horror movie ever seen the people leave the haunted house. I really enjoyed Paranormal Activity, but I kept thinking, "There is no way I could sleep in that house with all that crap going on. I'd have to check into a Holiday Inn."

The one thing I will say - the last quarter of the film gets a bit wonky. When they explore "the further" (which makes sense if you see the movie), it feels a bit more like a Terry Gilliam project than a horror film. Which isn't completely bad but it does lessen the earlier terror it did an excellent job building up.

And also - "Tiptoe through the Tulips?" Seriously? I don't know if that was meant in homage to Jeepers Creepers or what, but Tiny Tim isn't scary. Well... at least not like that.

Oh! And the score was divine! It was total old school Hitchcock-ian crazy violins and piano crashes. This really was an old school horror flick. Very minimal CGI. It was nuanced and camera tricks and perfectly timed noises. No gore at all. Just straight up fear.

The only thing that would've made it better would have been if Doug Jones played the red faced thing. Doug Jones makes everything scarier. (See my previous post on the awesomeness of Doug Jones: Rambling...)

I've probably hyped Insidious too much. Now you'll go see it, and be all like, "What? This isn't scary at all. That Amanda Hocking is a total wuss."

Maybe I am. I have been in a weird mood lately. But I am big into movies, and I am particularly fond of action, horror, fantasy, and 80s movies, and most of them scare me not at all or very minimally. And Insidious really scared me. So much so, I don't think I'll ever watch it again. It was very much like a really well done haunted house.

I'm sure they'll be a poorly done sequel in a few years, but that doesn't change the fact that I personally would rank Insidious as the scariest movie of all time.

45 comments:

  1. I can't watch scary movies. :-/ I already have nightmares almost every night as it is, I don't need to help them along. Although I will say I love suspense and mystery, and anything that challenges the brain. It drives my husband crazy cause I just try to figure everything out. I LOVED Pan's Labrynth! Very good movie. It made a ton of sense.
    Anyway, very good review! Now I can make an educated decision not to see it when it comes out and my husband says "this looks good let's rent it!" :-)

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  2. Totally off subject, but did you see you got a shout out on Charlaine Harris's blog yesterday?

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  4. There is a made for TV movie called the Haunted. It was low budget, made in the early 90s, but it was absolutely terrifying to me. They move houses as well but can't get rid of what's haunting them. Not a lot of special effects, just the old school scary stuff. It's pretty great. You should check it out.

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  5. Oh man. I've got a friend who sometimes here's crazy shit on the baby monitor. I can't think of anything more terrifying than that.

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  6. Luke Wilson is certainly all over the place with genres in film, but he's a solid actor with presence. I was surprised to see Barbara Hershey again. It seems she has risen from the dead and is now inhabiting good movies, like "The Black Swan" with Natalie Portman.

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  7. Definitely going to have a go at it! :D

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  8. Thank you for the review. I like a good scary movie, but so often the people are stupid (Scary noise outside, girl says, "Johnny, is that you?" and even when "Johnny" doesn't answer, she goes outside anyway!) that I can't help thinking, "They deserve to die!"

    I'd been trying to decide whether or not to see this one. Now I'll have to check it out :)

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  9. I knew people who had something to do with "Paranormal Activity" had something to do with this movie so I thought about seeing "Insidious." Plus I liked Patrick Wilson in "Barry Munday," which was a totally idiotic (but fun) film.

    I'm game to watch it, I just have to convince my wife.

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  10. I've been hearing good things about this, and I like the "We should move..." and they do.

    I did something similar with my zombie novel, wherein people actually go, "Oh, these are zombies." Unlike most TV shows/movies/etc. wherein people go, "What are those things? I've never heard of people who die, come back, and eat other people..."

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  11. Amanda,

    I saw Insidious on Friday, and I agree that it was one of the scariest movies I've ever seen. Not to say that I don't scare easily, but I'm really big on scary movies because I LOVE to be scared. But this movie was so scary you couldn't pay me to see it twice.

    The music at the beginning and the end was indeed very 'Hitchcock-ian',and reminded me of the original Amityville Horror, where the music really set the scene to scare.

    It's been a few days since I've seen the movie and I'm still afraid to be in my apartment alone.

    Kudos Amanda, I agree - scariest movie I've seen yet.

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  12. Loved this movie. I haven't been that consistently on edge and and anxious in a movie...ever, I'm pretty sure.

    It inspired me to go out and write something spooky :)

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  13. OK, so I'd have to watch this in the daytime. lol

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  14. Pusillanimous by nature, I generally avoid the Horror genre like the plague. On a whim, I saw Paranormal Activity (rationalizing that what I don't like about scary movies is the gore). I was wrong. I had to sleep with the bathroom light on for a week. Thanks for the review of this film...now I know I should see Hop instead :)

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  15. My niece and her boyfriend went to see this movie too and they came home totally freaked out. Now I am curious, hmmm ... I usually don't do horror films but I may see this one. Thanks Amanda!

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  16. I'm looking forward to this one. And I'm the odd duck who is really eager to see the scenes about "The Further". For me, scary and wonky mix well.

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  17. I have yet to see a movie that scares me so I try to see them all cause I'm sort of on a quest to find at least one! When I saw the commercial I totally wanted to see it cause I thought it looked freaky but not scarey. Now I want to see it even more but I'm still feeling it will not bring the scarey....

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  18. LOL the scariest movie I've ever seen was Mulholland Drive. The singing scene ... FA-REAKY. IDK why. LOL

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  20. Hi Amanda -- My husband and I run a long-time paranormal investigation group in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and I love horror movies, though I can be a bit jaded since I've seen so many and I also deal with real cases involving paranormal activity. However, I've been hearing good things about this movie and I REALLY want to see it. Having read your blog, I'm now positive that I will. Thanks for the review! Also, CONGRATS on your success (you SO deserve it!) and keep doing what you're doing!

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  21. My friend and his wife watched a horror movie in cinema.After that he couldn't sleep well for 2 nights.But I like such kind thrilling stuff.;)

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  22. This movie should not make it on any top ten list that has "...of all time" in its title.

    6/10 stars.
    The Shining, Paranormal Activity, The Exorcist were all light years ahead of this movie.

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  23. I think I might actually see this. It's been awhile since a horror trailer actually seemed interesting.

    Also, what do so many people like about Paranormal Activity? I'm not a horror aficionado but I didn't think it was a good movie at all.

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  24. I once had the pleasure (or Misfortune?) of seeing Tiny Tim perform "Tiptoe Through The Tulips" live. It was actually pretty terrifying. But then it was at Spookyworld, a seasonal nighttime horror-themed amusement park in the backwoods of Massachusetts. We were waiting in a seemingly neverending line to get tickets directly in frint of the stage. When Tiny Tim came onstage and started singing and strumming his ukelele I thought it was was some kind weird joke. Turns out he was there as a distraction so that costumed ghouls could sneak up on people in line and scare the crap out of them. I was about 12 at the time and had to ask my mother who he was then but when I heard about his death a few years later I got to tell people that I'd seen him perform live. While the Cryptkeeper and Michael Myers stood next to me.

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  25. "Insidious" sounds like a good film for me to avoid. Nice review, Amanda, and thanks for the warning!

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  26. Um yeah. Just the trailer scared the crap out of me. I'd have to change my pants if I saw this in the theater...lol

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  27. Wow. This is probably the most tremendously positive review I've ever read for a horror flick.

    I hated the trailer for "Insidious" but I will definitely give the flick a chance now.

    I'm a big horror fan -- all the classics, and some of the more out of the way, oddball "detours" the genre has taken over the years. I must say though that for some reason ghosts freak me out the most. I'm not sure why; maybe it's because they seem the most plausible "scary movie fodder" when compared to vampires, zombies, werewolves and what not.

    My One More Day is a ghost story mixed with a family drama -- it's about contacting the dead, but at the same time it's about a woman trying to make sense of her life, and what it means to be family and when to move on when friendship and love turn sour.

    I like the ability of the horror story or horror movie to have the "surface scare" of ghosts, monsters, freakazoids or whatever the creature or spirit might be, while at the same time having a buried meaning, a purpose, a metaphor.

    As my favorite author, Clive Barker, pointed out, we spend such an enormous amount of our time dreaming, living in fantasy, sometimes while we are asleep, other times when we are awake. This fantastical "otherness" we experience should be a part of the fiction we read.

    Nothing is 100% "real." There is always a supernatural subtext to being alive -- there's always some question to which we don't have a satisfactory answer.

    No book can truly portray what it is to be human without addressing that fact.

    Nick
    One More Day

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  28. Your post is great regarding made-up horror. I have experienced the paranormal and within my small group, no one has ever experienced anything like the events in Insidious, Haunting, or any of those head spinning, puking, movies. I really can't say these things don't happen, just I've never met anyone who has actually experienced anything like this. Cheers

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  29. hey i like it.
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  30. @ BA -- I agree. Those things that could kinda sorta "really happen" are the scariest. The minute a serious movie that tries to be realistic starts playing the "hardcore horror" card, it loses me.

    The same thing goes with when I read allegedly "true" stories. My Nonsense-O-Meter goes off the charts and I can't continue.

    That happened to me when I read Amityville Horror and I put the book down and never picked it up again.

    I think that in a story you have one gimme, one thing that is out of the ordinary and could never really happen in real life. When you've exhausted that gimme, you better play like you mean it, but do it in such a way that you don't go outside the bounds of believability.

    If ghosts and demons are colliding in my house, I'm not staying there overnight. Simple as that.

    If there's a killer on the loose and I hear ragged breathing in the basement, or clear as day footsteps, then I'm not going down there. As a matter of fact, I am leaving the premises right now.

    Horror movies take for granted that we viewers are either a) dumb or b) willing to suspend our disbelief and eat a crappy movie rather than demand real quality.

    It is good to hear that at least one movie this year picked up on this and adjusted its game accordingly.

    Nick
    One More Day

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  31. First time posting. First off, congratulations on all your success, Amanda. I loved My Blood Approves, and I can't wait to read the rest of the series.

    This post has officially convinced me to go see Insidious, which means I'll be up all night, with every light in the house on, and music playing full blast so I won't hear any strange noises. I love horror movies, but my psyche doesn't appreciate that love.

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  32. First, I wanted to give a thanks to you for reviewing Insidious in such a positive light. Horror is a genre that folks don't give much of a chance to and it's always nice when someone with the ability to reach quite a lot of people give it a shove in the right direction.

    That being said, I'm a horror author. Technically, I write contemporary horror fiction (fans of Stephen King and Dean Koontz would appreciate my work) but I've been known to branch out to the gothic and the noir as well. So, as a lover of the macabre, I'm pretty biased to Insidious. I didn't think it was the scariest movie I've ever seen but it wasn't bad. I'm surprised no one else, including yourself, didn't make the connection between Insidious and Poltergeist. The two films have much in common if you've seen the latter enough to make a comparison as you're watching. And if you haven't seen Poltergeist, I highly recommend it. Talk about your haunted movie sets-almost everyone in that movie has died a mysterious death!

    Much more success to you in the future.

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  33. Another great ghost movie is "Session 9" -- a freaky flick set in the real life remains of a closed down mental institution. All the patient files and recordings are all still there, rotting in the basement.

    If any place would be haunted, it would be some place like that . . .

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  34. Hey Amanda!

    I'm nearing the time when I will be sending out samples of my first novel (Ethan King) to literary agents/publishers and your blog has been very inspirational. Keep up the great work!

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  35. Howdy,

    I get cranky when I watch horror movies as I must talk all the way through them just to be able to watch them..loL!!! Makes me feel better. Or I make noises that annoy everybody. I am a bad , bad person to watch horror with. The Ring has scarred em for life..hubby keeps getting me to watch them. I am a very calm , happy person with enormous patience, not much annoys me inlife..but those Final Destination movies...me gets very cranky..lol!! I can't cope with them all that yuk going on. Now Zombieland..lol!! Once I got past the 4 mins of nummy num num zombie gore opening scene...what a fun movie..my sons love it...I would be lost to the zombie at Rule Number #1 Cardio...hubby laughs I would be the first to go. Anyhoo, I keep trying to watch them..but the fam has to realise..that I can be scarier than the movie, my body reacts and I have everybody jumping..ahhh the price they must pay for making me face my fears:D

    Michelle

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  36. p.s. Not sure if I can cope with Insidious...no doubt I will be made to face my fears especially the way you described it..eeekkk!!

    Michelle

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  37. ooo..just watched the trailer..oo dear!! But AUSSIE Rose Byrne..wonderful actress is in it, kudos..but possessed child..eeekkk!!! From the makers of SAW..oh dear lord...most briliant but frightening didnt see that coming movie...totally scarred from SAW 1 and 2 that was my limit. But Aussie boys did write it and star in it..again..kudos.

    Michelle

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  38. Amanda,

    Just thinking what did you think of the movie House of the Devil...?

    I just finished watching Insidious that the same as your self good scary fun without gore...

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  39. I loved this movie. The scariest I've ever seen. When the mom walks by the little boy, but doesn't notice him...oh. my. God. I still get the creeps.

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  40. Completely agree with this post! I love horror films and Insidious was very well done. The soundtrack, the visuals, and the plot was very well done. It generally had me frightened and due to the lack of CGI, it made it even more realistic. Good stuff!

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  41. Omg, I totally agree with you that this movie is scary. It certainly scared the crap out of me and to make matters worse I went alone the first time I saw it because I was like, "Oh, another haunted house. Scary? Yeah, right" Never will I make the mistake of watching a scary movie that I know nothing about. Both times I came out from the theater shaking and scared, though I screamed more the second time I watched it. And believe me when I say this was scary. First movie to keep me up at night in a very long time.

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  42. I know I am posting like way after the fact but I went to see Insidious after reading your review. I love scary movies and tend to take them home with me and this one was no exception. I literally mean I take the movie home; I saw those creepy twins in my hallway and the old woman watching me brush my teeth but it has been what 3-4 weeks later and a swear to god the lipstick demon was behind me when I was in the gym this morning. Alone. At 5 a.m. That’s how I know this movie kicked major ass, it is still haunting me.

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  43. Scary movie indeed. I too have seen many a horror/suspense films. One of my guilty pleasures. Alot of them have let me down in actually scaring me but this one had me on the edge of my seat and I watched in the daylight. Haunted house + haunted kids just gets me every time. Only thing I disagreed on with original post was that I found the Tiptoe through the Tulips song quite disturbing. Must be the old songs played on phonographs that sound creepy to begin with.

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