100 Days of Horror welcomes you to ... SATANFEST 2013

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"Y'all know me, know how I earn a livin'. I'll catch this bird for you, but it ain't gonna be easy. Bad fish! Not like going down to the pond and chasing bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow ya whole. Little shakin', little tenderizin', and down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that'll bring back the tourists, that'll put all your businesses on a payin' basis. But it's not gonna be pleasant! I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I'll find him for three, but I'll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you've gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don't want no volunteers, I don't want no mates, there's too many captains on this island. Ten thousand dollars for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing."

Thursday, October 3, 2013

SatanFest 2013 - Day Two: "Insidious!"

That's right, bitches - you're getting a twofer tonight. But don't expect this kind of loving attention to be
lavished on your asses on any permanent - or even semi-permanent - basis. We are now acting under direct threat of our best friend and now, evidently, office manager here at the Unstoppable Movie Monster headquarters. And that broad is cracking the proverbial whip, too.

So you're gonna get a double dose of Satan tonight, since we just finished up the second movie on our list - 2011's "Insidious." And we're gonna talk all about it in a few minutes here. But first I need to explain a little something about this blog.

I started this out oh so many years ago to challenge myself to stick to a self-imposed schedule and to see if I really enjoyed horror movies as much as I claim to. And what I found out is that A., I can stick to a schedule, even when my life is falling apart (and, as I was going through a rough patch that eventually lead to my separation from my wife, my life surely was falling apart), and that B., I kinda do like horror movies. And, I kinda don't.

So this time around, I figured I would explore some of the aspects I universally enjoy about horror movies. I like it when seemingly normal people are pitted against "forces beyond nature," and I also enjoy movies about demonic possession because that shit terrified and fascinated me as a child. And it still does, as a matter of fact, and that lead to a lifelong study of the occult that serves me well to this day.

Since we settled on a theme of "The Devil," I wanted to make sure we addressed Old Scratch and his presence (or lack thereof) in each film. And, that is exactly what I forgot to include in my first post on "The Lords of Salem." Like a dumbass.

That section - "The Devil, You Say?" - was added, so if you've read the entry on "The Lords of Salem," go back and read it again. If you want to, that is. Or not. Whatever. This is not mandatory.

And with that little bit of expository dialogue out of the way, lettuce get to the meat andtcheese ....

Insidious (2011): Directed by James Wan. Written by Leigh Wannell. Distributed by FilmDistrict.

Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye, Barbara Hershey and Ty Simpkins.

Co-starring Darth Maul as a creepy bastard.
The DL: A young family is plagued by supernatural phenomena in their new home that inexplicably drives their son into a coma. A change of venue, however, fails to help as the occurrences continue and their lives become increasingly unsettling.

The Hotness: Y'know, I wrote both James Wan and Leigh Wannell off. I hated - hate, hate, hated - the "Saw" movies. Yeah, I know that most people reading this blog loved 'em, but I found them poorly acted for the most part, and derivative of the type of "torture porn" that was pervasive in 2000-era horror cinema. Yes, Tobin Bell is one creepy bastard and a fine addition to the annals of horror movie baddies. But one of the things I discovered during the "100 Days of Horror" challenge is that, I don't like torture porn. I don't watch horror movies to see someone's head ripped graphically in two. You can certainly show me that, if it's pertinent to the plot, but don't linger on the violence and glorify it, making it the purpose of the film and not a consequence of someone's inaction.

That being said, I didn't pay much attention to Wan or Wannell over the past few years - and it sounds like I wasn't missing much. However, Shannon and I caught "The Conjuring" in the theaters this summer and when I found it was directed by Wan, I probably made a surprised face and grunted with a similar tone of, "huh!" because I actually enjoyed "The Conjuring." Like, a lot. But more on that later in the month.

Not meth ... not even once.
Although "Insidious" is a little slow on its taxi down the runway, once it gets going it seriously takes off. I found some of the scenes so intense that I had goosebumps and hard nips, and I strongly questioned my reasoning behind watching such a goddamned movie alone.

Then I remember, "Oh yeah, I ruined my marriage. Right. Shit."

And while Patrick Wilson is amazing (why do I love him so much? Is it because he's Nite Owl?), and Rose Byrne is ... I dunno, passable, the real standout is Lyn Shaye as the medium Elise. Why this talented and emotive actress has made a career out of silly comedies and side gigs in television shows is beyond me. Her matter-of-fact performance is the foundation of the entire second act of the story.

And let's talk about the story a bit, Leigh. Can I call you Leigh? Good. Say, Leigh ... ever seen a little film called "Poltergeist?" Because this movie is essentially the same plot, with some of the same character tropes, and some of the same settings. This includes the "Wise Old Woman," the "Geeky Tech Guys," and the "Travel to Another World to Save our Child" plot device. But as a close friend once told me, "Good artists borrow - great artists steal." And this movie is as larcenous as they some, in some respects.

You will never watch "The Great Space Coaster" the same.
Where it separates itself from the "Poltergeist" model is in the imagery. Wan somehow manages to squeeze in every creepy image that has been rattling around in his brain for, like, ever. I will spare you a description of those sights, because honestly they heighten the creep factor to 11 and I don't want to spoil it for you. Suffice it to say, Wan manages to horrify you with something as simple as a man in black walking impatiently back and forth in front of a window. I mean, I was terrified. The tension is ratcheted up throughout the film's length and doesn't let up until it's over, despite some brief relief in the form of Wannell and Angus Sampson as "comical low-tech paranormal investigators." And that's from Wikipedia, not me.

The story also explores the themes of loss, separation and detachment without the heavy-handedness of other similar narratives while it preys upon our collective fears of domesticity. There is also the ever-present familial terror that rears its head when any parent has to sit back and watch things fall apart without the ability to act effectively. And that, folks, is the scariest notion of all. Trust me, I know.

The Devil, You Say?: Meh, not so much. This movie was actually on the short list in case we couldn't find enough Devil movies, but I decided at the last minute to include it because I hadn't seen it at the time. It does have a huge cloven footed beast as its main antagonist, however. And while the plot does revolve somewhat around demonic possession (which was another aspect we were willing to explore), it focuses instead on astral projection as the cause of the possession and not the traditional "obsession/oppression/possession" model. It also has more in common with haunted house movies like "The Amityville Horror" than it does movies like "The Exorcist," but it is still a solid thriller that will scare the shit out of you if you let it.

Cool Stuff Someone Said: "I don't think bad wiring is the problem here ..."

Side Notes: This is the type of thing that fascinates and allures me when it comes to Hollywood. The original movie cost $1.5 million to make, and it went on to gross over $97 million dollars. Now, I am no math whiz, but isn't that, like, almost a 100 percent take above the cost? I mean, it's close to it - feel free to bust out a calculator and give it a shot. And the second installment, "Insidious: Chapter 2," which was just released on Sept. 13, came with a $5 million budget and has already brought in $87 million. Clearly, I am in the wrong fucking business.