Insidiously delicious duo

Parodie humaine by Felicien Rops, c. 1878-1881

Parodie humaine by Felicien Rops, c. 1878-1881

I love horror movies. I’ve loved them since long before my parents probably knew. They scared me. They sent that dopamine rush into my blood forever linking fear and excitement.

One of the first horror movies I can remember scaring me as a child was probably Bloody Birthday (1981). It’s not a great film at all, but it encompasses all that late ’70’s-early ’80’s horror had at it’s best – and what many horror movies today are lacking.

For decades now, it has taken a lot more than a slasher-mystery to scare me, though I pursue every chance to find that feeling again with the newest blockbuster to D-list Netflix streaming release.

I want my heart to race. I want to jump and get goosebumps. I want to feel so excited and nervous that I refuse the urge to get up to use the bathroom while sipping more soda just to keep my mouth from going dry.

Insidious (2011) and Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013) achieve it all. And they do it by using old tricks.  Rather than ’80’s greats like Poltergeist (1982), or more recent gore-porn like Saw, think more of the style, attention to detail and story, and wonderful mood created in The Shining (1980), Ghost Story (1981), and Carnival of Souls (1962).

They use high-pitched string music accented by sharp and sudden piano. There are bumps and bangs and screams. The actors make you believe in the terror the characters feel – even when a discerning eye could look at the make-up on a “ghost” and think it looks more demented clown than frightful ghoul or demon.

I just got home – on a work night, no less – from seeing a double-feature of Insidious and Insidious: Chapter 2.

I hadn’t seen the first film in theaters, though I fell in love with it on DVD. But I found greater appreciation for it tonight. The large screen and dark, nearly empty theater was one thing, but the sound production was the best. Not only are the intense moments that much more accented, but there are a multitude of subtle sound effects – hurried breathing of Rose Byrne or the unknown knock which comes from behind as the ghost appears in front – making this film go beyond just good to great.

The sequel, or more appropriately named, second chapter, is a little rough at first. Seen back-to-back with the first film, the different pacing of she second is accented. As is necessary for today’s forgetful audiences, they had to make adaptations to the story to remind people of what happened in the first film, though they do succeed at making it more than a “previously on” montage.

And maybe knowing the secret of where the ghosts come from also has a hand in dampening the effect of Insidious: Chapter 2. There are some curve balls thrown in, but they take more thought.

Through both films, Rose Byrne truly is the frightened mother and Patrick Wilson alternates between the caring but lost father and channeling Jack Nicholson as the crazed caretaker of the Overlook Hotel. Their skillful ability to inhabit the characters is perhaps one of the greatest things these films have going to keep the audience entrapped.

In all, the 2 films combine to make a great duet, completing the story for the Lambert family in a horrifyingly satisfying way, while still managing to leave a convincing opening for a third film, likely to come off more as a spinoff than fitting into a trilogy.

If you like when things go bump in the night, when the sight of something unknown standing stationary in a corner can me just as frightening as something jumping out at you, then I highly recommend Insidious and Insidious: Chapter 2. Even at $17.00 to see the pair, I felt it was worth it for the full experience – and that’s something I almost never say about modern films in the theater.

Happy haunting.

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