Review of The House of Seven Corpses

house-of-seven corpses3 The year was 2001. It happened on the 20th of November. It was a Tuesday evening when a certain set of words were spoken sometime between 8:00-8:30pm on NBC.  Very telling words.

“Is that one of those movies that takes 45 minutes for anything to happen, and then you’re sorry it did?”

This quote was uttered by Martin Crane, a fictional character played by John Mahoney on the television show Frasier.  Well Martin, your quote sums up the film The House of Seven Corpses to a tee!  I  know, I know, you were referring to some other movie. But it works so well here! In fact I would say your assessment is even too generous for the film I am reviewing. The House of Seven Corpses took about 70 minutes for something to happen.

In case anyone is confused, the film in question did not premiere in 2001 on some “20 day” in November – this is the date that the Frasier episode with the Martin Crain quote aired. The House of Seven Corpses (Directed by Paul Harrison) came out in the theaters in February of 1974.  It’s a film about a film. A film crew is shooting a horror movie in an old house where suspicious deaths had occurred many years ago.  The horror turns real when a corpse buried in a grave behind the house comes to life and starts doing zombie-stuff.  You can learn more about the plot details here  at Wikipedia. But please note: the synopsis as described in this article doesn’t really begin until the movie is almost over. Until then, viewers have to sit through boring scene after boring scene that shows the mundane activities of a fictional amateur film crew. Snore!

house-of-seven corpses2

Here’s an interesting note: I originally wanted to see the film – The House of 1000 Corpses  by Rob Zombie. I didn’t know there was a previously released film that featured only seven corpses. (Does the visa-versa of this exist in other contexts?  For example, is there a “House of One Thousand Gables” film to rival original story of a house with only seven gables?)  So when I stumbled upon the 1970’s film with the “Seven-Corpse House”, I naturally assumed it would be the better of the two. Without having seen Zombies’ film,  I suspect that I’m wrong.   True, Zombie’s film is widely panned (according to Rottentomatoes.com). But it has to be more entertaining than Paul Harrison’s film. Zombie’s film is partially panned due to its excessive gore.  But for me, gore is better than dull. And come on, one thousand corpses have to be better than seven!

All kidding aside, had the producers/writers of The House of Seven Corpses just settled for a mindless zombie film the results would have been better. They had an excellent location and a creepy old house with a winding stairway. As a haunted house lover, I appreciate these things and it’s a shame they didn’t make better use of what they had.  They could have focused less on plot and more on creepy camera angles with more ghosts and zombies to fill the shadowy corners. They could have given a lot more attention to John Carradine’s character. A brilliant actor he is. Why was he used so sparingly?

I’m not saying that my suggestions would have turned this into a great movie. However, they would have made this film watchable at the very least. Anyway, soon I will watch Zombie’s film and then decide with finality if one thousand corpses are better than seven. Until then, I say good night.  Here is a closing theme for ya!

 

Review of The Uninvited

This movie came to me in a vision. There I was, entering a tomb that is guarded by possessed skeletons. I passed them by and went on. Soon I came upon an upright coffin. Somebody opened it from the inside! There before me was a coffin-bound ghoul. He spoke to me of horror! Then he told a corny joke and unseen people threw rubber chickens at him! All this occurred in my “tele” vision. (I told you it came to me in a “vision”)

For those who don’t know, I have just briefly described the opening for the horror movie show that airs on Saturday nights on MeTV . Famous horror-host Svengoolie helms the show (and the show is called “Svengoolie’ – imagine that!), and it is a blast! You can see one of these openings in the video below.

The film Svengoolie aired last Saturday is called The Uninvited. It was the second time I have seen this classic 1944 haunted house film on his show.  I think I liked it better the second time. Here is the plot in brief –  a brother and sister purchase a house by the seaside. The twenty-year-old granddaughter of the seller objects to this transaction. As a former occupant of the house (although she was very young when she lived there), Stella still feels a connection to the place; a connection which she has trouble articulating. Her mother passed away near the house. There is a cliff nearby that drops into the sea.  Her mother committed suicide by jumping off this cliff.  Or was she thrown off? Was murder involved?  There was another woman that lived with them in the seaside home. She too died when Stella was young.  Stella insists on living in the house with the new occupants. She is convinced that a female spirit also resides in this house. This spirit, she insists, is trying to make contact with her. Is it her mother? Or is it the spirit of someone else, someone that wants to harm her.

Svengoolie had an interesting piece of trivia concerning this film. He said that this was the first film that took the concept of “the ghost” seriously. I’ll take his word for it. Offhand, I can’t think of an earlier film that put as much effort into telling a thoughtful ghost story.  For the first time, perhaps, the ghost that manifests on the screen looks “real”.  Of    TheUninvited3course, by today’s standards, the specter in The Uninvited might appear lame. But I liked it! It is a distinct change from the “dancing sheets” that substituted as the ghosts in earlier films. Most often, these “ghosts” were used for comedic effect.

In The Uninvited, the ghost appears as a glowing swirl that dances across the screen. Soon, it takes on the appearance of a female specter; transparent and blurred just enough to allow for an imperfection of form that creates the visual effect of a vaporous figure.  The ghostly sounds are quite eerie as well. There is the disembodied sobbing that is done with just the right amount of echo. There is haunting laughter that trails off to nowhere. Then there are other factors that make for a chilling, ghostly atmosphere.  Book pages turn on their own accord. Flowers die instantaneously. And special attention should be payed to Actress Gail Russell (playing the role of Stella) when she gives way to dramatic pauses that pull the viewers into the contemplative yet chilling scenes. Stella smells the fragrance of her mother. She becomes blissfully joyful. Then Stella becomes frightfully cold. She succumbs to trances.

TheUninvited2

All in all this is a decent haunted house film. It’s not the best but it holds its own. My only complaint has to do with the ways that the mystery unravels. Through dialogue, the cast discuss the clues they have found and verbally hypothesize their way to the truth. This is an instance where the phrase “show don’t tell” comes in handy. I would have preferred more showing and less telling.  Oh well, you can’t always get what you want, I guess.  Still, it’s a good film.  See it. And tune into “Svengoolie” on MeTV Thank you! Over and out!

Review of Haunter

Hey, have you ever seen the film “Haunter”?

(I think you mean “The Haunting”.  There’s the original 1963 film by Robert Wise and then there’s- )

No, I don’t mean “The Haunting”.  I mean “Haunter”

(Oh!!! You mean that 1995 film with Kate Beckinsale.)

NO!! That’s “Haunted!”  I’m referring to “HauntER!” “er!” “er!” er!” “er!”

(Hunter? )

Oh never mind!!

 

Truth be told, I had never heard of this film either (until I found it on Shudder.com a  Hauntercouple months ago) It premiered in 2013, but according to Wikipedia, this Canadian film had a limited release in U.S. theaters. Released on video in 2014, it only took in $129, 477.  Suffice it to say, it didn’t get much exposure. Equally disappointing are the lukewarm reviews.  Fifty-four percent of professional critics cited on Rottentomatoes  rated this film positively – a slim majority. But there are plenty of professional critics that panned the film.  Rex Reed of the New Yorks Observer writes that the film is “A dull, confusing movie for which nobody provided a script” Meanwhile, only forty-two percent of the non-professional critics (audience) view the film favorably.  IMDB gives this a rating of 5.9 stars out of 10.

All this is sad to me, because I think this is an underrated film that is too good to be hidden from the masses. It is NOT dull. In fact, it is quite the opposite; I was drawn in immediately. It only took a few scenes before I had dissolved into the mystery of the house that is at the heart of this story.  Is it a confusing movie?  Perhaps at times. It is  complex but in a captivating way. It is non-linear.  Characters weave in and out of various timelines. They tunnel into different dimensions; the dimension of the living and the dimension of the dead. There is a lot packed into this 97-minute film. There is layer upon layer of awesomeness. And yet, the film doesn’t feel rushed. Nor does the plot feel oppressive and burdensome.

It is difficult to explain the plot without giving away spoilers.  On all of the major review sites, a spoiler sticks out in the very first lines of the synopsis.  I understand the reasoning behind its inclusion: the heart of the story beats according to this revelation. But I swear, for the first 15-20 minutes of the film, the revelation is not immediately apparent. Having read the various synopses, I knew what this revelation was before beginning the film, and yet I let myself flow freely in the directions that the plot was taking me, so much so that I nearly forgot the surprise.

In some of my reviews, I do post spoilers. Normally I warn the reader about this.  Depending upon what I want to achieve with the article, I sometimes need to give things away. If I’m doing an analysis of major themes, for example, it is sometimes necessary to reveal key plot point and twists.  For The Haunter, I wish to give nothing away. I am even omitting things that major review sites list freely. I want this to be a surprise from start to finish. I want it to be like the roller coaster that it is; with exciting twists and turns.

I’ll close this review by starting a new subject, hopefully to be continued in the future I consider “Haunter” to be a post-modern film. It’s non-linear and it lacks a center, so to speak.  Some other haunted house stories that fall into this category are The House at the End of Time , a film and House of Leaves, a book.  So I ask, are there commonalities across all post-modern haunted house stories that are limited to its genre?  Are there certain themes that are begging to be discovered and analyzed?  I don’t know. This would be an interesting avenue to explore. And that’s what we do here at the Haunted House Poject – drive down avenues that behold such wonderful houses of haunts!

 

 

Review of The Haunted Castle (1921)

hauntedcastleThere’s an old saying that goes something like, “No expectations, no disappointments.”  There is great wisdom in this adage. It offers its adherents healthy attitudes toward the unknown. It can even bring forth pleasant surprises.  It is beautiful.

Yeah, but I didn’t follow the advice of this adage. I had all these expectations for The Haunted Castle by F.W. Murnau, even though I knew very little about the film. What I did know was that it was a silent film, and it was really, really old! (1921).  Based on some of the silent horror films I have seen, I was expecting to see ghostly images in the form of dancing white sheets. I was preparing for special effects so rudimentary as to be almost magical; things appearing and disappearing (dissolves), choppy animation (stop motion), and more. I wanted to see a distressed person making his/her way through corridors at a comedic speed.  I was expecting various haunted house props; skeletons, knight’s armors, bats.

Haunted Castle has none of these things.

What I wanted was some of this: (see video.)

This is Le Manoir de Diable (The Devil’s Castle) by Georges Melies. (1896). It is said to be the very first horror film. Melies is most known for the film,  Le Voyage Dans La Lune (A Trip to the Moon).  “Le Manoir de Diable” has the skeleton, bats, and the “now you see me/now you don’t” effects.

Perhaps I wanted something like this: (see video)

This is The House of Ghosts  by Segundo De Chomon. (Even though the video names this “The Haunted House,” imdb as it as “The House of Ghosts. I trust imdb) It has the sheeted ghosts. It uses stop-motion animation to present the illusion that objects are moving by themselves. It also has a scray looking, witch-like woman.

These two films are shorts: one is a little over three minutes and the other is just past the six minute mark. They were made, I believe, mostly to experiment with visual effects and film making in general. After all, film was a new art during their time of conception. Imagine what it would be if there was a silent haunted house film of feature length that incorporated the style of these two films and added a full story plot! Well I have to keep on imagining because Haunted Castle is not this kind of film.

The movie takes place in a castle, but it’s not haunted.  Several men gather at the palace for a getaway; a ducking hunting excursion. One of the guests is the Count Oetsch. He is suspected of murdering his brother, so the other guests shun him. It doesn’t help any that he looks and acts kind of creepy.  Soon to arrive is Baroness Safferstat, the widow of the murdered man. She has a new husband. In short, this film is a murder mystery. Except for one or two scenes, there is not much horror going on here.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. I should judge a movie for what it is and not for what I incorrectly assumed it should be, right? I hear ya. Still, I’m not a big fan of this film. There is too much dialogue; too many intertitles. While I understand that these intertiles are necessary in the silent era, I prefer a film that uses them sparingly and instead focuses on movements and actions.  Many of the scenes are simply… well, “boring” for a lack of a better word. There are long scenes of men at tables drinking and playing cards. There are facial shots that go on too long. Too often we are forced to watch the baroness’s morose and motionless face as seconds go by, more seconds, and….still more seconds.

Please don’t think I am picking on silent movies. Three pre-talkie films have made my Top 50 horror movie list.  They are:

I find the imagery and style of these three films preferable to the look and feel of “The Haunted Castle”.  But “The Haunted Castle” isn’t all blah and boredom. In fact, there is an interesting twist at the movie’s end.  Still, it’s not one of my favorites. But I’m sure there are many of you who will find this film delightful.

Review of Ju-On: The Curse 2

ju-onthecurse22What should I say about Ju-On: The Curse 2?  Let’s see…what did I write about Ju-On: The Curse, the first film of the series? Let me go back in the archives and read.  Hmm.  Uh huh.  Yup. Okay. I’ll just do a Copy and Paste, place that review here and then I’ll be done!  Good day folks!

On second thought, I won’t do that. But the two films are similar is so many ways that they are almost identical. As reviews on Rotten Tomatoes point out, the first thirty minutes of the film replays the final scenes of the first film.  When I started the film, I found myself wondering, “Did I put on the wrong movie?”  “Am I once again watching the first film?”  Both movies are divided into several parts, or “vignettes.” Since the stories of the first film do not flow in sequential order, I couldn’t remember which scenes began or ended the film. This is partially why I thought I was at the beginning of the first film, when in fact I was at the ending of the first film, when in actual fact I was at the beginning of the second film. Oh the confusion!  But at least the stories in the second film are shown in chronological order, unlike the first film. At least I think they are.

Both films feature the “Ju-On”, or “The Curse-Grudge”;  a transmissible phenomenon involving murderous spirits that strike from beyond the grave. The Saeki house once again serves as the catalyst of this curse. It has a violent past, and the spirits of murdered victims wreak havoc on the living; especially those who enter the premises. Even if they survive, they are cursed. When leaving the Saeki house, the curse follows them and the vengeful spirits can then murder them in their own homes.  Then their homes are haunted and the curse can spread to the occupants of their home.

The creepy spirit of Kayako Saeki is back; along with her little creepy boy Toshio, who likes to open his mouth and release a wicked sounding cat’s mewl.  Both films are 70 minutes long, and both were made for Japanese television.  Perhaps, in this second installment, Kayako is a little bit creepier? Maybe?  Her ghostly body certainly contorts in ways that it hadn’t in the first film. And now she has the power to duplicate herself!  When all those ghostly hands (all belonging to her) attack those windows – yikes-a-roni!

I can’t decide which film I prefer. But remember, for me, these films are simply prerequisites for the film that I really wish to review: Ju-On – The Grudge, the first feature film in the Ju-On series. But of course you already know this, since you’ve memorized all that I have said in my review of the first film. I have already seen it and I do like it better than its predecessors. But I needed to see these in order that I present a well-researched review of Ju-On – The Grudge. And I will…soon.  Until then, enjoy the “Ju-On Curse” films.  They’re not bad. They’re okay.

 

Review of The Haunted Doll’s House

dollhouse Ready for a bonus Christmas Ghost story review?

Toward the end of my article Christmas Ghosts and Haunted Houses, I wrote a preview concerning up and coming reviews of Christmas related haunted house stories. I was to review A Strange Christmas Game by J.H. Riddell and Smee by A.M. Burrage. I have fulfilled those commitments. But the Christmas/holiday season continues to roll along, so I said to myself, “By golly, I have time for one more!” I then discovered how much I enjoy talking to myself, so I continued on with the conversation I was having with yours truly, and I said, “I would be remiss if I do not at least touch on the work of M.R James, after all his name is synonymous with The Christmas Ghost story.”

Unfortunately, this touch amounts to a small nudge, because I am not actually reviewing his writing. Rather, I am reviewing a short film that is based on one of his stories. The film is The Haunted Doll’s House by Stephen Gray, and an interesting film it is!

Christmas festivities are usually not the subjects of M.R. James’s ghost stories. But, they were stories that to were read out loud on Christmas Eve. This is an old English tradition, and you can read about it here.

The Haunted Doll’s House has nothing to do with Christmas. Unless, one thinks of a doll house as a Christmas gift for a young girl, but this is a bit of a stretch. According to literature.wikia.com,  it was first published in 1923 for the magazine Empire review, it later became part of anthology titled “A Warning to the Curious and Other Ghost Stories”

Now fast forward ninety years to 2013, and we have Stephen Gray’s film version of the classic story. (I’m sure there were other incarnations somewhere in the ninety years, but oh well to them.)

According to www.thin-ghost.org,  this film was made with “no budget.”  It is minimalism at its finest!  There is live action along with some creepily effective animation.

All I’m going to say about this plot it this: a man purchases an antique dollhouse. The dollhouse is haunted. Want more details? Watch the film.

How does this film stack against James’s original story? I don’t know. I still haven’t read anything from M.R. James. That is my bad and I promise I will do so soon.

For now, enjoy the film. Watch it here:

http://www.thin-ghost.org/dollhouse


 

Betcha thought I forgot about the third Christmas promise I made! I didn’t.  In addition to promising Christmas Ghost story reviews, I said that I would write my own Christmas Ghost Story. And I have. But now I’m checking it twice. I want to make sure it’s both scary and nice!   It will be up soon!

Review of The Innkeepers

innkeepers2 Who are the keepers of the inn? Why, that would be Claire and Luke of course – two quirky twenty-somethings who like to gab at the front desk and browse the internet.  The Innkeepers are also two amateur paranormal investigators.

What inn do Clair and Luke keep?  It is called the Yankee Pedlar Inn. It is an historical hotel in New England that is supposedly haunted.  It has long creepy corridors, a spooky basement, a wide, square spiral staircase – all the workings of a good haunted house flick. The limited number of guests highlights an atmosphere of eerie abandon. It is the weekend before the inn is to close for good.  This is the last chance for Clair and Luke to capture supernatural activity on their specialized recording equipment.  So during their last days as employees of the Yankee Pedlar Inn, they are hoping for a ghost or two pop out and say “Boo!”

 

 

Normally, I am cautious about posting spoilers.  But for this review I don’t think it will be a concern.  There really is nothing to spoil!  This story has no twists, no hidden meanings, no symbolism.  What you see is what you get.  What does one see?  A haunted hotel that has ghosts that do stuff.  That’s it. When all was said and done, I thought that for sure I had missed something. I went to Wikipedia, IMDB, rottentomatoes, searching for a missed clue that would tie everything together and make me say “oh wow! I didn’t realize THAT was going on!” There is no such clue. There is no “THAT” there.

For me, the somewhat empty plot drags the film downward on the likeability scale.  But this does not mean it’s a bad film. The characters are interesting, especially Claire and Luke.  Their idiosyncrasies seem fit for one another, making for some interesting character chemistry. In this way, the film plays out like a crossover between Clerks and your average haunted house movie.  There are little snippets of comedic realism here and there. For instance, there is a moment where Clair is frightened. There is foreboding silence. Tension is building. And then we hear Luke flushing the toilet. The side characters (the hotel guests) are interesting as well. They have limited screen time, but their moments in from of the camera are worthwhile.

Ti West directs this film.  He is also the director of The House of the Devil. The aforementioned film seems to be superior to The Innkeepers, at least according to critics on IMDB, rottontomatoes.  I will have to check out The House of the Devil. It seems as if it’s a haunted house film.  And while I do not dislike The Innkeepers, I was hoping for something a little bit better.  Maybe this “better” will be found inside The House of Devil?  Who knows?

 

 

 

Review of Ju-On: The Curse

ju-on-the-curseJu-On: The Curse is one of those movies you watch, you enjoy, and when it’s over, you then read about the plot on wikipedia and try to figure out what the hell you just watched!

I have seen, but have yet to write about, The Grudge, the most familiar film of the Ju-On series. (The original Japanese film, not the American)  Ju-On: The Grudge is decent but confusing. I was going to write up a review right after seeing it, but I decided to wait until I had seen the lesser-known prequels. Perhaps then, I would have more to say about The Grudge.  With a solid knowledge of the back-story, I would be armed with experience and more able to write a decent review. The Movie Doctor inside my brain agreed and he prescribed for me initial viewings of Ju-On: The Curse and Ju-On: The Curse 2, along with a second viewing of Ju-On: The Grudge.  So I have swallowed the first pill (The Curse), and…… I am less confused.  Hooray! Still…I don’t know. I feel I am missing something.  But the doctor is ordering me to complete my therapy, so this I will do.  Also, he suggested I read up on the subject.  Yes Doc, will do.

Ju-On: The Curse is a Japanese film that is available with English subtitles. It is about a house and a little boy, who at first comes off as disturbed, perhaps sad, but is otherwise normal.  Then his face contorts and he meows like a cat in agony.  There is also this young, bluish-faced woman who pops out of cubbyholes. Then there’s this girl who is missing a lower-jaw – yikes!  These are the ghosts, and there are several more.  They are all connected, in some way, to this house that is at the center of the story.  Did I say story? Perhaps it’s better to say stories!   There are six tales, each named after an important character within each story.  The stories are all connected; some take place within the haunted house; which is a modern home in a suburb of Tokyo. The tales that take place elsewhere feature characters that have been inside the house. But just because they are outside the terrifying confines it does not mean they are safe. No siree Bob!   The terror follows them!

ju-on-jaw

Now, here’s the kicker! The stories are not shown in sequence. Story 1 might be take place after Story 4.  Perhaps Story 4 takes place after Story 2, or maybe Story 6 sets it all in motion, or is that story 5?  Some films succeed with this kind of non-linear storytelling. Pulp Fiction is one example of such a success. Ju-On is not.  The tone of this film is effectively eerie, but I was forced to come down from my “creepy high” in order to figure out what is what, only to fail at this pursuit of understanding.  Hence, I was forced to go elsewhere to learn the modus operandi of the story.

According to wikipedia:

The title of the films translates roughly to “Curse Grudge”, which means putting up a curse while bearing a grudge against someone or something. The first two films in the series were so-called V-Cinema, or direct-to-video releases, but became surprise hits as the result of favorable word of mouth. Both films were shot in nine days and feature a story that is a variation on the classic haunted house theme, as well as a popular Japanese horror trope, the “vengeful ghost” (onryō). The titular curse, ju-on, is one which takes on a life of its own and seeks new victims. Anyone who encounters a ghost killed by the curse is killed themselves and the curse is able to be spread to other areas.”

 

Some of my confusion is no fault of the film and can be attributed to my ignorance of Japanese language and culture. Perhaps I would feel more at home with the film had I known the definition of “Ju-On;” or if I had the concept of the onryō engrained in my cultural psyche.  But how does this “curse” play out?  The film understates this, if it states it at all.

From the same wikipedia page:

According to Ju-On, when a person dies with a deep and powerful rage, a curse is born. The curse gathers in the place where that person has died or where they were frequently at, and repeats itself there.

Yeah, I didn’t get this. Without the above description, I would be at a loss to the whys and wherefores.  Basically, a family is brutally murdered inside their home (the house that is central to the story) and the ghosts of the victims come back and kill others that enter the home. Or, the ghosts will follow people that have entered the home and kill them elsewhere. The curse spreads and lives on.

ju-on-blue-ghost-girl

I am always appreciating fresh approaches to haunted house tales. And fresh this is! A tragedy within the walls creates a curse that spreads to those that enter the house. It attaches itself to them, so that they just might happen to take a couple of ghosts home with them.  I like it! It fits in nicely with the “Houses that exist as entities” theme that I have come to love

But for me, this series would be so much more effective it the film makers would just stick to good old fashion linear storytelling. I would be able to trace the deadly path of the curse had stories been shown from beginning to end.  The ghosts in this film, they are so darn creepy! Their faces are horrific, their movements uncanny. And the sounds they make when moving along? Unnerving, but in a “gotta love it, it’s horror” kind of way! Alas, the out-of-sequence storytelling is a trademark of the series. Fine! I will bear with it. I just wish this series didn’t have to make me work so much in order to appreciate it!

Review of 1408 (The Film)

1408-cover I wonder if Mike Enslin (Played by John Cusack) knows about “creeper weed.” He is the protagonist of Mikael Hafstrom’s film 1408 which is based on a short story by Stephen King.  In case he doesn’t know much about such things, I’ll explain it to him.  See Mr. Enslin, you know you’ve been smoking “creeper weed” if after you have taken a couple of hits, you feel nothing. So you take a few more puffs.  These extra inhalations allow you to, finally, feel something; not much, but oh well, the buzz it gives you will just have to do.  You go about your business. At some point during this business, you suddenly realize that you are stoned off of your ass!  The buzz has snuck up on ya! It “creeped” its way into your state of being, leaving you to wonder “When did all this happen?”  It’s a strong buzz too.  You’re not thinking straight. Everything is out of whack.  You’re afraid. (BTW, how do I know about “creeper weed”?  I heard it from a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy that read a book about it)

Mr. Enslin, are you all right? Oh dear. It seems that Mr. Enslin is a tad uncomfortable upon hearing of the effects of creeper weed.  But it’s worse than that Mr. Enslin, right?  You are terrified. It almost seems as if you have had a similar experience. Maybe not with drugs. Maybe with, I don’t know, a haunted hotel room that turned reality inside out and nearly drove you insane with fear?

See readers, Mike Enslin doesn’t believe in ghosts or any kind of paranormal phenomena. He is an author of haunted house books (Like yours truly!). He travels to supposedly haunted inns, uncovers the history as to why the place is haunted (past murders, death by illnesses, etc.) and writes about his experience in these hotels. But he never experiences anything out of the ordinary.  Until he stays in the Dolphin Hotel in New York City. Room 1408.  A fine suite it is; luxurious, two or three rooms. The hotel manager (Samuel L Jackson) had warned him that no guest has ever lasted more than an hour inside this room. Well, Enslin arrives in his room, several minutes go my and….nothing!  Same old, same old.  (Boring impotent weed.) Okay, so suddenly there are fancy chocolates on the bed and a couple of other complimentary items and décor that wasn’t there moments ago.  Or, maybe they were there and he just didn’t notice.  Nothing else to see – move on, move on!  So the clock radio alarm goes off.  The last guest must have set it to go off at this time.  Things are a little weird, but these happenings, whatever they are, are harmless.  Then ghosts appear and start jumping out of the windows. (Uh oh….!)  More stuff happens; stuff stranger than the previous occurrences. Then More! Still MORE!   Suddenly poor Mike doesn’t know what’s real and what isn’t.  And the room won’t let him leave!  Everything goes to hell and Mike comes to the realization that the evil of the room has slowly but surely “crept” up on him. A devastating evil it is. And it won’t let him go.

room-1408_o_gifsoup_com

 

The drug metaphors I have used to describe this film; excuse me if this puts you off, but I believe they effectively describe the feel of the movie. It has the flair of a psychedelic trip; albeit a trip or horrors – a very bad trip. But luckily for us the viewers, we are grounded in reality on the other side of the screen. Any “trippy” experience to be had is thankfully vicarious. But I’ll admit that I found myself a bit exhausted by the film’s end.

I really liked this movie. It is a tense film with psychological drama mixed in with the horror. John Cusack is excellent. And Samuel L Jackson, though his screen time is limited, brings a welcoming performance.  This movie is one of my favorites. See it!

Review of Insidious

“It’s not the house that’s haunted. It’s your son.”

Really? Oh… well then! Since this is a haunted house blog, and because the house is not haunted, I guess this ends my review of Insidious.  Great movie – no haunted house. Goodbye now!

InsidiousBye

 

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Oh. You’re still here. In that case, I guess I should say a little more about this film. The quote that leads this review is from one of the film’s characters, Elise Rainer; a specialist in the field of paranormal arts. She and her team come to the aid of the Lambert family. Young Dalton Lambert (age 7? 8?) enters a coma of sorts. Shortly thereafter, freakish things from beyond the grave begin to prance around their houses (they live in two of them consecutively, moving from one to another in a futile attempt to flee from the ghosts). Elise informs the distraught parents, Josh and Renai, that their son is not in a coma. Dalton is an astral-traveler, she tells them. When he sleeps, his soul leaves his body to go on mystic, otherworldly voyages. However, during his last trip, he strays too far and enters “The Further” – a realm populated by evil spirits. Here he is trapped. At the same time, other spirits, both evil and neutral, sense the soulless body lying there in the bed. They crave it! To inhabit such a body is to taste life once again. This is why there have been a lot of ghosts hanging around both of the Lambert’s residences. It matters not which house they live in; Josh and Renai have a haunted little boy.

Wow, I dug pretty deeply into the plot, didn’t I? I hope I haven’t unearthed too many spoilers. I’m guessing I have not, not by IMDB’s standards anyway. After all, their one-sentence summary is:

A family looks to prevent evil spirits from trapping their comatose child in a realm called The Further

 

Now, isn’t that sentence packed with a whole lot of plot?

Anyway, I will reveal no more plot intricacies. I will say that this is a great Insidious 2film. It is one of the better horror movies of the modern age. And though, technically, it’s not the houses that are haunted, this film has all the makings of a good haunted house flick. Before the coma tragedy and the hauntings that follow, the family goes through the normal concerns of adjusting to a new home. Isn’t this how many haunted house films begin? Insidious certainly has the haunted house props. The first house has a tall staircase and a spooky attic. The second has a long hallway with a grandfather clock at the hallway’s end that sort of stands in an eerie spotlight. There are plenty of places for ghostly beings to hide. Creating such hiding places in suburban homes seems to be one of specialties of Director James Wan. As he does for Insidious so does he do for The Conjuring. (Hint: “The hide-and-seek clap game.” Still confused? Well then, watch The Conjuring or read my review of it here.)  The styles of both films (and the sequel – Conjuring 2) are very similar, and pleasingly so. Oh, and I must not fail to mention the baby monitors!  Witness the terror a mother goes through when she hears voices inside a room this is supposed to be occupied only by her innocent baby!

There are only two things that annoy me about this film. These “things” are known as  “Specs” and “Tucker”. They are the two nerdish assistants of Elise Rainer. They constantly try to outdo each other with their skills as paranormal specialists. I get it – they are there for comedic relief. But I found their shenanigans distracting. For me their comedy went against the flow of the film.

Nerdy technicians aside, I love this film. It is creepy in its subtly and bold with its shocks. A must see for any horror fan.