Saw was about as original as a genre film gets these days. A gory affair with some life lessons tucked into the creases, it was a jarring creation that left an indelible mark on viewers, plain and simple. And when you think about that finale, well, if that finale didn’t catch you off guard, you’re one awfully savvy bastard. The beauty of Saw was – at the time, unknowingly – only the brief beginning of something profoundly large, and it served as the perfect springboard for James Wan, who continues to hone his craft with every picture he shoots; nearly all of them top notch efforts.
Dead Silence caught an awful lot of unnecessary hatred. Having recently returned to the film it’s hard to understand precisely why everyone hated it so much. It’s not a perfect film, admittedly, and there’s some sketchy dialogue to get past, to say the least, but it’s such a dark, creepy atmospheric production with an absolutely awesome twist to bring it all to an end, it seems an absurdity to miss the awkwardly problematic charm of it all. Dead Silence, for those who have forgotten, or skipped it entirely, it fits into the killer doll subgenre extremely comfortably. Dead Silence is an underrated and often panned piece, but it’s also a blast!
It’s been called this generation’s Poltergeist, and while it is a radically different piece of work than Poltergeist, the core of Insidious’ structure and ideology definitely mirrors Poltergeist to noticeable lengths. Insidious makes for a perfect blend of drawn out terror and effective jump scares, and there’s no denying the insanity that is the final act. Some love it, some hate it, some love to hate it, and some love to hate everyone, so what the hell do they matter? At the end of the day, Insidious is a very successful and chilling paranormal piece that left fans and pundits alike realizing that James Wan was fast on his way to becoming something extraordinarily special.
Insidious: Chapter 2
There can be no doubt whatsoever that Insidious: Chapter 2 was an inferior film to its predecessor. Most of us anticipated that, as it can be just about impossible to create a sequel every bit as jarring as a true, high caliber franchise starter. The good news, however, is that there are still a number of extremely unsettling scenes, and we get a few hidden Easter Eggs throughout the movie, which is guaranteed to tickle the super nerds of the world. The level of dread in Chapter 2 can’t duplicate that of the first film, but this is still a damn far cry from a shitty movie.
What James Wan has already done is prove he’s entirely capable of making unsettling sequels. While Insidious Chapter 2 is arguably one of Wan’s weaker features, it’s still a rewarding follow up that keeps the same tone, and holds a few random WTF moments in those sleeves. Oh, and yes, Wan once more goes big on the finale. It’s basically a familiar version of the first film, the scares just a hair less disturbing the second time around.
Don’t be too shocked to hear uninformed viewers claim that The Conjuring is just Insidious with a new name. Yes, both flicks deal with the paranormal, but they’re entirely different films, with entirely different vibes and conclusions that don’t stand as carbon copies of one another. The first Conjuring flick also gives us a couple of images that are basically impossible to evict from the memory bank. An excellent film, and what feels like the very moment that James Wan likely understood precisely where he fit in the horror puzzle, The Conjuring proved a pivotal moment for Wan’s career. Hopefully James can manage to avoid the Shyamalan spiral (I still love ya, buddy) and continue to stick to what he knows best as opposed to attempting something radically different with each pic made.
The Conjuring 2
Given the fact that this sequel hasn’t been out all too long, I’m feeling some reservations and hoping to avoid any serious spoilers for those waiting to catch this on disc. So, what I’ll say is, like Insidious: Chapter 2, the second Conjuring film, though different in a number of ways, still has that same ominous gloom just hanging over the production, ready to climb into your mind and spirit and leave you making terrifying choices that are driven more by personal invasion than anything else. It’s creepy, and it never seems to squeeze fully out of frame. There are a few minor things that could be picked at, but there isn’t much point in that. This is one of the finer sequels ever made.
Up Next: Aquaman
House of 1000 Corpses
House of 1000 Corpses was really one lengthy tribute to vintage terror and the old school directors that Rob Zombie grew up idolizing. You can see that plain as day, unless you’ve got a stick up your ass and can’t find happiness until everything is 2,000-percent original (not gonna happen), tidied up and in its perfect place. Zombie’s a grimy dude, he always has been and he always will be. That’s why the film looks the way it does, like something that crawled right out of the 70s, a murky transfer from damaged film. And that just bellows charm. Keep an eye out for plenty of Easter Eggs in this one, but don’t forget to have fun with it for what it is designed to be: a brainless but fun journey sending a constant message of love to the men and women who inspired Zombie.
The Devil’s Rejects
You want to talk about bat-shit crazy flicks? This is a good place to start. You remember the maniacal lifestyle the Firefly clan lived in House of 1000 Corpses? Well, we basically get that lifestyle, on the road. This picture showcases a lot of growth in the dialogue department and that makes for stronger chemistry between the focal (and totally insane) players. Packed with some sporadic insanity, and jaw-dropping punchlines, The Devil’s Rejects is an entertaining piece of work, to put it mildly.
I give it up to Rob Zombie for trying to do something radically different with his remake. He attempted to give Michael Myers a little bit of a personality (never happening, Rob – he’s a silent killer living inside his own imagination and nowhere else!) by spending a large portion of time studying the man in Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. It makes for an extremely interest experience, and although the film drags as the final sequel gets underway, it doesn’t take away from the inventiveness that Rob carried to the table. Halloween isn’t his finest feature, but it’s pretty damn good.
The Lords of Salem
Lords of Salem, like most other Rob Zombie films, was met with mixed reviews, typically leaning in the direction of negativity. Some did most certainly adore it, but plenty of genre freaks loathed it. Personally, I think The Lord’s of Salem is the man’s finest work. The autumnal color scheme Zombie utilizes throughout the entire flick is not only dazzlingly magnetic, it’s genius. But that’s not the only strength of the feature, as there are a small handful of truly grandiose spectacles to take in and a group of personalities that gel extremely well. The cast, again, work very well together and the hole in the wall radio station is a loving nod to vintage fare. Excellent film.
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