Archive for Leigh Whannell

See?

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on March 3, 2020 by dcairns

We went to see THE INVISIBLE MAN, which already sounds like it should be a disappointing experience. But we actually liked it. Fiona had been very hyped to see it, I wasn’t expecting too much, necessarily. End result, I was fairly impressed and Fiona was mildly disappointed, but still liked it.

What we agreed was odd is that although INSIDIOUS and its spawn are silly, the best of them are scarier than this. I recall feeling a really acute anxiety at that one. But what’s good here is that it’s slow and creepy, it doesn’t over-rely on jump scares, and it makes really good use of space. Lots of empty frames. Lots of coats on hooks that look like lurking figures. It has that hypnogogic nightmare feel.

And the trope of making it an abusive relationship drama works well, I think. It never felt exploitative or male-gazey, which would be the worst take possible. So it’s not HOLLOW MAN. We’re solidly on the side of lead Elizabeth Moss as she tries to flee her ex, only to find him, maybe, everywhere.

Oddly enough it refuses to play the game of “Is she crazy?” though it makes all the other characters pose that question and leap to the wrong conclusion. Clearly a deliberate choice. I wonder if there was mileage there, if it could have led us along with Moss (Cecilia — her friends call her C. Get it? See?) and then made US doubtful, made her doubt her own sanity, and then turned things around for the climax. Because, even though the movie puts her through a lot, it never does the worst thing, which would be to successfully gaslight her.

Even without gaslight, which is the primary source of illumination on the contemporary political scene, it feels quite of-the-moment with its “narcissistic sociopath” villain. And, though the INSIDIOUS series was always terribly conservative and Christian, this one is much, much more progressive. I think director Leigh Whannell, who wrote several James Wan movies, has a subtler sensibility, and I’m curious to see what he does next.

Blood from the Dummy’s Tomb

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , on October 20, 2018 by dcairns

DEAD SILENCE (2007) is the film that helped steer director James Wan away from the softcore torture porn of SAW and into the supernatural realms he’s mainly been exploring since. But at this early stage, he hasn’t mastered the genre. His later ghost stories have both effective suspense and shock sequences, even if they’re light on brains. They take their time, the better to scare you. DS goes all out, and after the first, moderately effective sequence where most of the sound cuts out, so we have a very visible but eerily inaudible thunderstorm and the victim-in-waiting’s breath is the loudest sound, it degenerates into fast-cut noisiness, not helped by a seriously overcooked score that seems to be trying to play THE EXORCIST’s Tubular Bells, THE OMEN, Danny Elfman and a half-dozen other undigested musical clichés all at the same time.

But we do get the eerie Judith Roberts from ERASERHEAD (“beautiful woman next door”), two (two!) icky human puppets, and an effective set-piece in a sort of ventriloquism museum with assorted dummies behind glass, and a couple other OK bits. But as with SAW, Leigh Whannell’s script offers almost no believable human interaction, and you strongly sense that you’re in the hands of filmmakers with extremely limited life experience. It’s rare to see a professional movie with a certain slickness but a vision of characterisation so close to that of a fifties drive-in movie.

And the WORST attempt at a scary rhyme I ever heard. “Beware the stare of Mary Shaw. She had no children only dolls. And if you see her in your dreams; be sure to never ever scream.” Doesn’t scan! Anyone reciting that junk deserves to be possessed by the spirit of an undead puppeteer.

Lots of Mario Bava references, I’ll give them that. More BLACK SABBATH than KILL, BABY, KILL! And we appreciated the retro Universal logo at the start.

Further Adventures

Posted in FILM, Mythology, Politics, Radio, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2011 by dcairns

INSIDIOUS is from James Wan, who made SAW, but we went to see it anyway. We didn’t mind SAW — haven’t seen the sequels — apart from Cary Elwes not being up to the job, and the “poor man’s process” night driving scenes being hilariously/ embarrassingly unconvincing.

This one certainly delivered lots of shocks, and a fair bit of suspense. The screening got off to a bad start with a couple noisily conversing and making out — we moved seats to get out of earshot, but could still hear the jangle of belt buckles, unfastening of velcro, weirdly loud conversation, so we got them thrown out. They were OUTRAGED.

This unsettled us, which was probably ideal for the film, which, once we could concentrate on it, was pleasingly scare-filled, if daft. The early stuff is a little too eager to get in there and freak us out, but once the slender plot was underway, the anxiety of home invasion by non-living entities from beyond was pretty intense.

Wan and regular screenwriter Leigh Whannell nearly screw things up by bringing in some bickering nerd parapsychologists, out of The Big Bang Theory by way of GHOSTBUSTERS. Of course, psychic investigators are great fun, and who can resist the chance to invent goofy ones, but in a movie that’s trying for domestic realism as an environment for supernatural scares, these guys are fatal. The team in POLTERGEIST, which INSIDIOUS is very heavily derived from, are both less sitcom-quirky and more in keeping with that movie’s big-budget elephantine bombast, so they work.

Lin Shaye, as the medium, however, is another matter — a strikingly convincing portrait of a genuinely good woman, and the only character in the film I could imagine actually meeting. So the near disaster is diverted, although what with the psychic gas mask and other peculiar techniques, and guff about the astral domain known as “The Further”, the movie starts to get much closer to being ridiculous.

There’s also a demon, for no pressing narrative reason, whose favourite tune is Tiptoe Through the Tulips as sung by Tiny Tim. And now things get spooky —

The morning before the cinema trip, I was singing Tim Brooke-Taylor’s I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue rendition of the lyrics of Girlfriend in a Coma to the tune of Tiptoe Through the Tulips. The plot of INSIDIOUS involves a comatose child. How weird is that?

If the film is emotionally a good roller-coaster/ghost train, and plotwise a mere string of creepy incidents, how does it fare thematically? Is there anything INTERESTING to take away afterwards? Well, one thing is that it does seem to be the only American film released lately WITHOUT resonance, conscious or otherwise, pertaining to the war in Iraq, or 9/11. If it resonates with anything, it’s the idea of stranger-danger — the plot focuses on sinister persons who want to get into our children. The Tiny Tim reference makes sense because TT probably fits mainstream America’s idea of what a deviated prevert looks like. The play with baby monitors and burglar alarms, frightening in itself, taps into an anxiety about intrusion and assault, a fear that is all over the news (whose chief purpose is to scare us into buying stuff) but generally neglected in fictional forms of mass media, because without the supernatural dressing up, it doesn’t seem very entertaining. The demon, who is entirely surplus to narrative requirements, ties in with the Satanic abuse meme to goose middle America a little more.

Worth seeing if you like jumps: the red devil lurking just over a character’s shoulder in a breakfast table chat is a fantastic out-of-the-blue shocker.