The simple fact that I have to write this disclaimer is a testament to how uber-critical we horror proprietors can get. We get caught up in the haves and haves not’s, the that’s and this’, we forget how to unplug and enjoy a movie on the sole basis of watching a movie. Our brains are at a constant state of flux. And we judge everything. Actor performance. Dialogue. Setting. Mood. Plot. Storytelling. And of course, meaning. While all these are important, I fear we’ve allowed the benchmarks of our business to eclipse the most important aspect…entertainment. There are some movies that are pointless to pick apart because they’re not movies with great plot or have terrible actors or more often terrible scripts. Some require such a single scoring method. Some simply beg the question: Was the movie entertaining? And thus we must answer. Yes or No. You can keep your own opinion on the subject. If a movie is in a series, especially, you may regard with disdain without ever having watched it, stating, “Ugh, I hate that series.” And this is okay. Its your opinion, isn’t it?
I am not innocent of these charges. I’ve been there, said that. For example, a buddy of mine asked if I wanted to go see this new Vin Diesel flicks, The Last Witch Hunter. I impudently turned him down, saying something akin to, “ugh, that movie looks lame. Its going to be awful.” I made this assumption without ever stepping into the theater. Why? Well…its a reasonable assumption, right? Judging from the previews, it looked kinda stinkerish, correct? Maybe so, maybe the acting would be terrible. Maybe the plot would be silly. Maybe the dialogue would feel cheesy. Maybe… there’s lots of them. But what about the most important aspects…? Was the movie entertaining? I wouldn’t know, and never will, unless I watched it.
If we want to judge a movie, we must first watch it, then judge.
What does all this have to do with my review for Insidious? Well, I’ll tell you. Over the weekend, I stopped by our local Redbox to pick up Pitch Perfect 2 for the wife. Lo and behold, Insidious: Chapter 3 was available as well. At first, I scoffed at the idea. “Horror series’ are lame,” and all that. But then I got to thinking…”why not?” It only added $0.50 cents to my cost. Why not? And I’m glad I got it. Because even having already judged the movie because its part of a series, and most horror series’ are lame, I found Insidious: Chapter 3 to be…what’s that magic word…? Oh yes. Entertaining. Sure…the character relations got a little sloppy, at the beginning. The relationship between father and daughter seemed catawampus, at best. Was there an over abundance of “jump scares?” Sure. Maybe they could have dialed those back a nudge. But the movie was highly entertaining. How entertaining you ask? Well, while screening the movie, I never once opened my tablet to check Facebook. Boom. That’s how entertaining it was. Enough to keep my attention, despite whatever short coming it had.
Here’s a quick fire synopsis:
When teenager Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott) senses that her late mother is trying to contact her, she seeks help from gifted psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye). However, Elise’s tragic past makes her reluctant to use her abilities. After Quinn is attacked by a malevolent entity, her father (Dermot Mulroney) pleads with Elise for help. With support from two parapsychologists, Elise ventures deep into The Further — where she finds a powerful demon with an insatiable craving for human souls.
And there you have it…
AND we can dig a little deeper, if we want. We’ve already established the flick was entertaining enough to garner our short attention span. What else was there? Well, the movie seemed to focus a lot on the loss of loved ones. Not only did character Quinn lose her mother, to cancer I think. But psychic Elise also lost her husband (suicide). And not just her, but a well known neighbor had also passed away too (unknown causes) and we get to watch the uncomfortable “gee, wiz, sorry to hear about your loss. If you need anything, anything at all, please don’t hesitate” conversation between the bereaved and clumsy father, Sean Brenner. To say that Insidious: Chapter 3 dealt with the meaning of loss and separation and coping with death would be an understatement. Following the plot felt like strolling down the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) in one form or another, between all the characters, not just Quinn and Elise. Besides the expectant “jump scares” that accompany such as movie, the mood and tension was very well tuned. It started in slow and then built from there. The tar footprints were a lovely touch. And the fact that, given this is a series, the story moved away from the “dream walkers” to something more akin to possession and…looking for the right word here…hmm…the closest I have is paranormal slasher. Kinda like “It Follows,” but better. The “demon” doesn’t want to enter the world of the living, according to Elise. It wants to take souls back with it to its own world, back into the darkness, or as they coin, The Further, which I find to be even more creepy than the plain Jane possession. To be possessed seems short term. You’ll either be saved or die, in which case you will likely be free, assuming as much anyhow. With the “paranormal slasher,” you’re not just possessed, but you’re also possessed, forced to kill yourself, and then stolen for eternity to this dark nightmarish underworld. For me, thanks in part to my oh so lovely fundamental religious upbringing, the “eternal punishment” aspect sets the creep factor pretty high!
Insidious: Chapter 3 may seem like a flick unworthy of your time. But I hope my review here has changed your mind on this. It was a great break from the previous storytelling, whilst keeping true to its shared universe. And I think “paranormal slasher” is a budding horror sub-genre that needs farther exploring. While we most certainly can nit-pick at the things the movie suffers from, Insidious: Chapter 3 was still highly entertaining movie. And in the end, isn’t that what truly matters?
My Review: 4/5
It Follows has without a doubt one of the most clever marketing ploys. The old classic, ‘come check out this awesome horror movie that’s been getting all these rad reviews from the UK and Sundanese. Oh…you wanted to see it? My bad, it was only released to a few theaters in the U.S. Sorry you can’t see this revolutionary horror flick. But hey, guess what! Now it is available nationwide….but still only in a few select theaters.’ Your tired and true, ‘sorry you can’t see this awesome movie’ trick. And it fucking worked!!! Dammit!!! I’m a sucker for marketing ploys…I’m the guy who buys everything at the checkout counter at Kroger’s or HEB (if you be from TEXAS baby!!!) regardless if I really wanted that Snickers bar or that pack of Bubblicious. I was so hiped about this movie that when it finally released to a local AMC theater here in Houston, I jumped in my minivan and high tailed it to get my ticket. And what did I think of the film…?
It Follows, first off, was not horrible. You’d think it would be, considering the hipe and the clever marketing ploy, but not so. This new addition to the horror genre was not at all terrible. It Follows sure wasn’t revolutionary as the ads claimed it to be either. I’d probably rate this flick somewhere in the upper middle. Why? I’ll try to give you my reasoning as SPOILER FREE as possible by talking about the movie in generalities. I want to mention the ending first because the ending is what critic reviewers and ads have been claiming to be the revolutionary part of It Follows. In reality the ending to It Follows was actually standard for horror movies. Unless all you watch are monster B-flicks, in general, horror denies closure. The good guys do not always win. This grim conclusion is what makes horror so appealing for some people (us twisted dark people). Because in reality, not every story ends happily. The good guys do not always win. Sometimes the story keeps going because in the end, if people are still around, there will always be evil in the world. Not to get too metaphysical or anything, just a fact of life. People are good. And people are bad. But most people are somewhere inbetween. It Follows ends in typically horror humdrum fashion. Was the monster, the Follower, destroyed? Who knows. It wasn’t explained. But you kinda get the feeling It’s still out there…Following.
It Follows was a minimalist picture relying heavily on mood and tension built upon an amazing musical score which reminded me of a strange albeit completely fascinating soup of Carpenter, Doctor Who, and Twin Peaks. The cast were no names, which is perfect if your aim is to create something groundbreaking. Sexuality becomes a painfully obvious subtext as the Follower can be passed on to another victim through sexual activity. Think porno version of Paranormal Activity mixed with a very macabre relay race where the followed passes the baton to the new followed by doing the nasty. There also might be some allegory regarding menstruation, if you’ve seen It Follows think swimming pool scene. Nevertheless, as blunt as the social commentary for It Follows may be, the film most certainly touches on femininity and sexuality. Personally, I prefer my horror films to be a little more transgressive than It Follows. Either I’m way out of touch with society, or It Follows’ allegorical mayhem was a tad bit outdated.
The scare scenes in It Follows were decent. Especially in the beginning of the movie. But sadly, what was sampled within the first five minutes was rudely taken away and never returned to the table. The mood and musical score is what really saved this movie for me. The acting was also on par. Another saving grace is is the films originality. The same tired tropes are being overused in today’s modern horror. However, It Follows was a fresh breath of foul air, an interesting mix of creature mythology and classic stalker horror. If you allow yourself to fall into the ride, it becomes quite grim. The thought or idea of some thing constantly coming for you, never stopping. Paranoia ensues, followed by panic, and eventual confrontation.
Reviews for It Follows have been all over the place. But the strangest aspect you may have noticed is how, in majority, critics have heralded the film while actual blue collared movie goers (such as myself) have been somewhere in the middle. Personally, It Follows was a bit artsy. Even boring at some intervals. But with the well crafted mood and tension throughout most of the film, plus the amazing musical score, and originality, I’d recommend It Follows as a must watch — my conscience is clear in this matter.
My Rating: 3.8 of 5