As the new year rolls around, and your favorite writer begins to feel older and older, it seems I’ll keep things moving by putting my column through something of a mid-life crisis.
Gone are the exclusively Canadian films, as my selection on Netflix runs out and the NHL returns, we can all make do with a little less Canadian cinema in our lives. I won’t be phasing it out entirely, but instead starting to focus on a greater genre of horror films. Like me, the column might flounder around a bit trying to find its purpose in life, and I beg your patience (and the boss’s apathy.) For what it’s worth, i’m still foggy on what the distinctions between a thriller and a horror film are, and if you can shed any light on this subject feel free to add it in the comments.
Insidious started as a really bad idea with a very small budget. IMDB has it estimated at 1.5 million, which considering the way it looks was pretty well-spent. The script itself is not that original or interesting. It’s a haunting movie, which touches on house haunting, possessions, parallel universes, and demons (as well as a sampling of the musical artistry of ‘Tiny Tim’). Casting included the forgettable Patrick Wilson and the very underrated Rose Byrne, who put in a strong performance as well as a few child actors.
This should serve as an example to directors who want to take an idea that is somewhat dull and overused and create out of it a product good enough to be memorable. To do this, you need two key components. The first, is an unforgettable soundtrack. Insidious has this and more. It isn’t exactly the gorgeous lamentations of a Danny Boyle film, instead it is an aggressive, uncomfortable use of music which adds to the feeling of being on the edge of your seat while watching. Any passionate horror movie fan can tell you than 9/10ths of whether the movie is frightening or not is contingent upon the use of sound. There are in this case few cheap screams or screeches, rather an overall atmosphere of unease which in my opinion makes it great.
The second imperative in making a great film out of scratch is aesthetics. James Wan is able to take a nothing of a budget and turn it into an experience, differentiating smoothly between light and dark, clear and foggy, just about any viewing experience which fits the needs and the mood of the given scene.
When I am sharing horror movies with a willing friend, this is usually one of the first I turn to. Just about any kind of viewer can appreciate what it has to offer, and once you get past the somewhat tired premise, it has some interesting twists and turns to offer as well. And if you really hate it, at least you get to look at Rose Byrne for an hour and a half.