Cinematic Thoughts for Cinematic Minds
It still feels quite odd to me to be writing something even vaguely positive about James Wan. For he was the director that sparked off the detestable chav- magnet horror series Saw. Admittedly I enjoyed the first one and hated the follow ups with a vengeance. Good horror for me is a film that makes you think and question your own reality. Too often these days horror films concern themselves with focusing on grotesque rapes, murders and mutilations. Thankfully with his work this year Wan has made great strides to distance himself from this association with shall we say the low brow grot of most horror movies. In a year that has seen the horrendous reboot of ‘The Evil Dead‘ Wan’s directorial double header of ‘The Conuring’ and ‘Insidious: Chapter 2′ has definitely subverted the public eye back to a more discerning and quality mode of fright story telling.
The original ‘Insidious’ back in 2010 was a massive success making nearly $45 mill plus on top of its modest $1.5 mill budget. A veritable success it truly was. Whether you’ve seen the film or not I’m sure you’ll have heard about it from someone you know. On a purely cinematic level it’s an amazing piece of storytelling. Gone are the leg amputations and torture scenes of Saw making way for more traditional scares. Bumps in the dark, beastly mutterings on baby monitors and a multitude of ghastly ghouls. The story follows The Lambert family whose eldest son Dalton has the ability to travel to other dimensions while he sleeps. Unfortunately for The Lamberts Dalton travels to a realm called “The Further” and attracts the attention of a legion of demons who begin to fight over the possession of his unconscious body. Father Josh (with the help of a clairvoyant and two paranormal investigators) discovers that he can also “travel” like Dalton and has to venture into the “The Further” himself to rescue his son’s soul. Everything from the shot layout and colouring down to the script are acted out to perfection. Yes, there may be those inaccuracies in there that make you chuckle but these are merely momentary lapses in an altogether gripping film. The best part about this film is that it lays its foundations for a sequel down well. Wan starting the roots of smaller plots and story arcs alongside the main stream of his picture. The sinister ‘Black Veiled Bride’ lurks through the course of ‘Insidious’ but merely threatens to become a major player in the story in what was obviously a planned sequel.
Wan returned this year first with ‘The Conjuring‘ based on the true story of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The film focuses on The Warren’s most malevolent case, which involved the time when they were called to the aid of The Perron family whose five daughters had begun to be haunted by a powerful and terrifying demon. All of the ‘Insidious’ trademarks run through this film. To say Wan’s primary directive is horror his films really do look quite gorgeous on screen; perfectly lit and scored to really immerse you in that horror mood. Plot wise as well we aren’t just given a traditional one route plot, The Warrens and The Perrons actually have their own individual stories running throughout the first portion of the film and it’s when their two families collide that the spirit haunting The Perrons begins to take a more hostile approach to its victimisation of the young family. Also the film deals solely with possession and exorcism and not Astral Travelling. As always it is far more scarier to think that these events were actually claimed as truth. For a bargain price of 49p you can actually read Annabelle The Possessed Raggedy Ann Doll on an e-reader which forms the opening of the movie. This is something I intend to do because although ‘The Conjuring’ ends in a rather abrupt and Hollywood fashion there is licence in the story to carry on telling more about The Warrens and what they have discovered. Overall, the film feels different from ‘Insidious’ they share an obvious synergy due to Wan’s direction but the more “All- American” routes of ‘The Conjuring’ that lay in The Salem Witch Trials makes for an even more frightening tale.
‘Insidious: Chapter 2’ came hot on the heels of the previous movie and was boosted to my attention by Channel 4 helpfully airing ‘Insidious’ on the week of its sequels release… funny that isn’t it?
The second Chapter begins immediately after the first film finishes, addressing all the concerns about the last films ending we had been carrying for nearly three years. Wan delivers us another delightful look at the haunting of The Lambert family but this time we see them fighting off the paranormal on three fronts. Rose Byrne‘s Renai is now not entirely alone in her attempts to save her family with her Mother- in- Law employing once more the services of paranormal nerds Specs and Tucker to help her find the routes of her families harassment. Dalton is also still plagued by the demons he encountered in the first film and Patrick Wilson’s Josh is taken down an altogether darker road than we could have ever envisaged. What Wan does with this film is use the first chapter to aid the second. They are not stand alone movies, moments in the first movie hold relevance in the second. An obvious result of strict planning but also we must acknowledge a work of artistic genius. The budget has been ramped up for the sequel and it shows. The visuals are startlingly sharp and draw the eye in. The plot twists and expands all the way through and just when you think you’ve cracked it you find out something new and even more… well… insidious.
To conclude here it really has been a good year to be James Wan (let’s not talk about him signing up to direct Fast & Furious 7) he has made a real name for himself as a champion of the “real horror movie” he’ll have you on the edge of your seat, crying with laughter and hiding behind a pillow all at the same time. And nobody had to have their entrails ripped out for you to experience all this.. it comes courtesy of an intelligent film- maker who has perfected his craft over three delightfully gripping pieces of soon to be cult horror cinema.