Thumped’s Random DVD Trip #05 – Insidious & A Film With Me In It

Thumped’s Random Dvd trip: Wherein Hector Grey enters the Xtravision across the road and grab the first couple of things that appear in the shelf. This week: Insidious & A Film With Me In It.

Thumped’s Random Dvd trip: Wherein Hector Grey enters the Xtravision across the road and grab the first couple of things that appear in the shelf.

This week is Insidious, which is supposed to be a haunted house yoke, and A Film With Me In It, which is “deadpan” as the cover repeatedly tells me.

Insidious, eh? You’re really setting your self up with a name like that. One suspects that if the film isn’t any good, references to the only insidious thing on display being the producer’s voracious appetite for money over plot will abound, but lets hope it doesn’t get to that. In the first act we’re introduced to our perfect American family in their desirably huge house. But all is not as it seems. Things go moving around when they shouldn’t, the children complain about the cold, doors open, shifty, shapeless entities are espied at windows and all that stuff. For a while there, it moves along at a nice pace, a sort of Paranormal Activity with actual actors and a budget. Then one of the hitherto perfect children, curiosity piqued, finds himself in a coma having ventured into the attic and seen something he shouldn’t have. Months pass, and the kid is still out cold, stationed on a hospital bed in his room. The Mom (Rose Byrne who was in 28 Weeks Later) is still feeling haunted, and her husband Josh (Patrick Wilson who is in everything these days) spends all night at work to get away from his ever blathering wife. But he cracks, and in a move away from the usual ghost-gaff fare, they move house. It’s like phoning up a supernatural helpdesk, a sort of turn it off and on again routine. Have you tried sorcerer’s garlic? Yes? Have you tried a priest? Yes. Have you tried moving house? Yes, yes we have, and we’re still haunted. Ah, so it’s not the house, after all. It must be someone IN the household? But who? I’m sorry sir, your haunting insurance only covers actual abodes. Thank you, call again.

Well, it’s pretty obvious, really, and after a solid start the movie nose dives. Some comedy ghost hunters come into the house with wands and dials and add some kind of comic relief that’s neither comic or relieving. They also bring some revelations, and after a conflab it transpires that the kid in the coma is actually stuck in some astral plane bollocks and needs to be rescued. So then it becomes the end of Aliens. The race against time to rescue the kid, a hero’s journey. But the worst is yet to come; the haunting was initiated, not by some wandering revenant malevolence or some earth-bound bad vibes, but a (yawn) demon. A demon who has amassed a cabal of ghosts to come onto our physical plane and haunt our protagonists as if they were ghouls for hire? Sirs, you do the very notion of ghosts wrong. At least in 13 Ghosts (if you haven’t seen it, keep it that way) the ghosts were being kept against their will, but here the ghosts are goons sent to bully, and it all renders the haunting, the good bit of the film, utterly meaningless, explained away in the most facile, unsatisfactory way: a demon did it.

Ghosts are a simple but engaging concoction when considered as lost souls, echoes with unfinished business or, in the Japanese oeuvre, malevolent fuckers who wish only to hurt. Better still are the ghosts who don’t even know that they are dead or ghosts who are trying to tell us of some impending disaster or some nefarious skulduggery that has past, or just sadly trying to make contact with what remains of the corporeal world. What’s not interesting is ghosts who haunt for hire, with no emotional or even circumstantial association with the house or people in question, ghosts who are essentially mercenaries for some scrofulous demon. Insidious goes from the drab, cosy homeliness, where a scare is jolting not just because it’s unexpected, but because it’s in the hearth of home, a place where one should feel safe, to some dry ice laced, slightly pulsating image of a demon’s hell. As Sartre noted, hell is other people, in this case hell is the producers and their voracious appetite for money over plot. Oh. We got there in the end.

I won’t ruin the twist. I think this movie is worth checking out for the dichotomy of emotions you will feel, from the skin tinglingly delicious creepiness of being stalked by a ghost to the leaching of a scare story into some kind of What Dreams May Come homage.

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