“It's not the house that is haunted. It's your son.”
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose
Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye
Director: James Wan
Writer: Leigh Whannell
So the makers of Saw have come back together to create a ghost story. The fact is, out of all the horror movies I’ve seen, the ghost genre seems to stick with me (I made it a point once to watch House on Haunted Hill on the big screen). I mean one of my most guilty of pleasures is watching Ghost Hunters, which I do adore. I’ve always been fascinated by ghosts and I guess this has extended into movies. The hardest thing in my mind, to accomplish in this genre, is to scare people without overstepping into the unbelievable. You need to make the audience feel that this could happen to them, you want them to jump at off sounds once they return from the cinema. With this in mind, can the men behind Saw; a movie that relied on gore and ingenious traps; be subtle enough to create a good ghost story.
Well to begin with this movie has me actually camped on two opinions. One is very positive, and the other is very negative, and it really depends on what you want from this movie. So let’s begin with the positive. I was scared, I jumped, my nerves were on edge and I was dreading what would happen. Insidious is an effective piece of tension building, and I wasn’t the only one. I know plenty of people who came out of the movie with jangled nerves and were dreading the inevitable time at night, when their mind would start to play tricks. Please note that the team of Wan and Whannell are really good at when and where to put their scary moments. Sometimes people were reacting to the movie with fear, without anything actually happening because they were anticipating something bad. This game of give and take works in the films favor and we are never sure when a scary event will occur. In the third act however it does lose this a little because it’s showing more. I certainly calmed down a bit at the end and I never reached that scared high like in the beginning. So when it comes to scares I know that this movie is effective, I’ve seen people get scared including myself, this means as a ghost ride it’s successful but unfortunately this is a movie, and it’s trying to tell a story as well, and this is where it all starts falling apart.
First off by playing it so subtle in the first two acts, when it comes down to the finale it seems so out of place. In fact I really wish the movie was resolved in a more realistic way. I’m trying to tip toe around the ending without giving away too much, but it was almost like another movie completely. Also they had to play catch up with the exposition, this leads to a thankless role for Lin Shaye who is an exposition machine. Sure she does have some fun as the ghost stories resident medium but still her dialogue is clunky as hell thanks to her having to explain everything. Another problem is that there are just holes in the movie. I won’t say plot holes as this would suggest the writer didn’t notice the flaws in logic, instead it’s as if entire scenes and background details were lost somewhere in transport and yet we have characters referring to these incidents as if we should know it. This just did my head in, and at times took me away from the atmosphere, which I mentioned above was bloody fantastic. Finally there are things that are telegraphed so boldly I was expecting some characters to wink to camera when the lines were said. All in all the actual layout of the movie makes it an unholy mess.
Away from the plot, other elements do shine. Visually the movie was very well shot; you learn to fear the dark even if nothing is happening. James Wan has such a great eye for creating off kilter scenes, it’s no wonder he wanted to attempt a ghost story. Acting wise everyone, including the kids, do a fine job. I was really impressed by both Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson. However out of the two Partick Wilson has the most trouble but this is solely to the lack of character development. Instead of letting his character develop naturally, the changes are just patched over with that exposition, and the audience is just expected to go along with it. The designs for the ghosts are also pretty creepy, and each ghost seems to have a unique aspect to them that does make them stand out from each other. Ol red face really got under my skin. A lot to do with the eyes.
So overall you have a movie that successfully scares people, has decent acting and visually works, but the framework of the story completely fails the movie, and turns what could have been a great ghost story into something you’ll see once and then discard. If you’re a fan of ghost movies, I would recommend it, if only to compare. If you’re after a scary ride, then yet again you could do worse. But honestly as a movie it fails completely structure wise, which does sadden me. What if the script was better? Imagine how scary this bastard would have been then.