I went to the final two films of this years Film Comment Selects. It was a "horror" movie double feature...it was also an up and down night.
As I sit and write this it's late. I'm not going to go into a long discussion of events tonight because to do so would result in my being way too late on a work night. I also have three more days of fun and films to deal with.
The first film was John Landis' Burke and Hare which was described by Gavin Smith, editor of Film Comment as a romantic comedy about grave robbing. Its the story of the well known grave robbers but told with a comedic edge. Simon Pegg and Andy Sirkis star with an all star cast in support and cameos (Ronnie Corbett, TIm Curry, Christopher Lee, Bill Bailey and many others.)
For our purposes know that the film is good, but not great. It's got great in it, but it's not a great film. It's the sort of small film that Unseen Films was started to trumpet. Know that I'm going to write the film up in a full review down the line. Also know I'm going to write up the Q&A which was much too short.
I will relate Landis' best perk of being a celebrity.
When his father was dying he was hoping to be buried in an certain Veterans cemetery. Unfortunately it was more or less full up. Calls were made, and it was pretty much decided that the only way it was going to happen was an act of congress. Landis talked to his congressman who said that perhaps if they cremated him they could scatter his ashes and put up a plaque. that didn't sit well with the family so they went to see the head of the cemetery. The conversation went something like this:
Your name is Levine?
Landis? Like the Blues Brothers?
Don't worry I'll get your father in.
I'll tell more later.
After Burke and Hare was James Wan's Insidious. This puppy is being hailed as the new terror machine. It's being touted as something different, unlike everything else currently out there. A deliberate attempt at real scares, with a minimum of gore. Gavin Smith went on about how when he saw the film he knew he had to run it.
I've seen it and I have to say that yes, it has a few scares (all of the accompanied by a volume jump and loud music), but mostly it's a derivative film that mashes together several classic (and not so classic) horror films into a mess. It has moments but mostly it's an illogical film that is laughably bad.
The film has a family moving into a new house. One morning the family awakens to find that one son has fallen into a coma. Weird things happen, ghosts seem to appear. They then move to a new house which is the point everything amps up. The ghosts follow them. and the film is revealed not to be about a haunted house. What's going on I'll leave to you to find out, though it's not worth the effort.
The film is a mash up between Poltergeist, The Entity, a few el cheapo 1970's and 80's horror films, and a few other things (The demon looks like Darth Maul from the first of the recent Star Wars films.). It's got a plot so retreaded that it goes flat almost instantly. I was way way ahead of this puppy. It's the sort of thing that once you know what a plot point is, you can fill it all in to the next "revelation".
Despite the moments and images, the over all film is tired, poorly put together and damn near laughably bad. (Many scenes had be stifling laughter). Honestly I'd really love to savage the film, but my desire is do purely because this is being advertised as the next great thing when it's not. It doesn't deserved to be completely carved up because, as I said, there are moments which keep it from being a complete waste.
I have to reevaluate director Wan in light of this film. Having made the very good and influential Saw, he's never quite managed to make another movie that was as consistent as that one. Sure it was illogical but it made you watch and dragged you along. Every other film since then has been a collection of moments and almost moments that almost made a good or near great film. I liked most of them on some level but kept thinking, "if only he had something better..."
With Insidious it's clear that all he has is the moments and that he really can't put a film together from start to finish. He edited as well as directed, so the problems with this film are more solidly his fault. He can create moments of tension but from the looks of things here and in his past films he's, sadly incapable of putting it all together. He's simply too in love with the gee whiz of a cool moment to make a complete film.
I left when the end credits started because I wasn't going to be able to watch the Q&A without standing up and taking the film and the publicity apart.
Ultimately the less said the better.
Now to bed. I have Mars Needs Moms at the Opening Night of the New York International Children's Film Festival tomorrow.