[31 Days of Horror Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan] Day 27 – [Happy 15th Birthday!] Saw III (2006)

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Cast: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Angus Macfadyen, Bahar Soomekh, Dina Meyer
Screenplay: Leigh Whannell
108 mins. Rated R for strong grisly violence and gore, sequences of terror and torture, nudity and language.

Saw III felt like an event in horror back in 2006. It was the end of a trilogy, following two very popular installments. We weren’t sure if the franchise would continue, if it could continue, and if so, in what form? So many questions, and it was a packed theatrical experience in my hometown theater. Now, 15 years on, Saw III ended up not being the last installment (and even the next last installment, Saw: The Final Chapter, ended up not being the last installment either, in typical horror franchise fashion), so how does this third entry in the 9-film series fare amid the larger framework, and is it any good?

It’s been six months since Eric Matthews disappeared, and with each new killing, Detective Kerry (Dina Meyer, Starship Troopers, Johnny Mnemonic) gets more and more desperate for answers. Jigsaw (Tobin Bell, Mississippi Burning, The Firm) and Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith, The Blob, Believe) haven’t been seen in that time, but they’ve been busy setting their new game in motion, involving a vengeful father who must save the very people he blames for the death of his son and a surgeon forced to keep Jigsaw alive until the game is complete.

Saw III still feels like a final chapter in many ways. It sort of completes a certain story of the Saw franchise while sowing the seeds for the next 4 installments. I love when a horror series can build upon its established mythology as it furthers the narrative, and Saw III is perhaps the best example of this series excelling at both. It looks back at how Amanda has been integral in Jigsaw’s story as she sets up events from the first two films, and it dives into the deep mentor/protege relationship that the two have cultivated as Jigsaw tries to understand if she is capable of taking on his mantle after his death.

As far as the new game goes, I found this one quite interesting. I spent a good amount of time trying to figure out how this game would matter in the grand scheme, and it plays out in a number of surprising ways. This is something some of the later films would struggle with, but I found the twists and turns to be rather interesting in this film. The traps are interesting as well, a good combination of elaborate and disgusting. The Rack is one of the best traps of the entire series.

The cinematography and editing in the film are very similar to previous installments, but Bousman continues to push the visual flair of the series, crafting some interesting transitional shots that keep the action moving even when the narrative pauses to jump into the past.

Charlie Clouser’s score here is the best of the series thus far, as he takes popular theme’s like Hello Zepp and elevates them in new and interesting ways. I’ve always been a fan of the score in this franchise, and Clouser’s work in this film is another way. Between Clouser’s music, the cinematography, and editing, everything feels like a Saw film, and it won’t sway you if you didn’t like them in the first two films.

Saw III isn’t here to bring in new fans, and it doesn’t have to. If you’ve enjoyed the franchise thus far, Saw III should continue the strong streak of this 2000s horror juggernaut. If you weren’t a fan of Saw or its follow-up, this just may not be the franchise for you, but I adored this sequel and nearly everything about it. It’s one flaw is that may spend more time in the past than it does in the present, but it’s all good stuff nonetheless.

4/5
-Kyle A. Goethe

  • For my review of James Wan’s Saw, click here.
  • For my review of Darren Lynn Bousman’s Saw II, click here.
  • For my review of Darren Lynn Bousman’s Repo! The Genetic Opera, click here.
  • For my review of Darren Lynn Bousman’s The Devil’s Carnival, click here.
  • For my review of Darren Lynn Bousman’s Alleluia! The Devil’s Carnival, click here.
  • For my review of the anthology film Tales of Halloween, click here.

Kyle’s Top Ten Films of 2020

Hello again, everyone!

Well, I’m glad that is over. 2020 has come to an end, and with it, we see a very unusual year with a very unusual effect on the film industry. I can’t remember the last time I went this long without setting foot in a theater. The last movie I saw at the cinema was The Invisible Man back in early March. That was before my birthday so I can officially say that I haven’t been to the movie theater at all in my 30s. Geez, this year could not end fast enough. And no, we won’t see theaters immediately come back to the way they were in 2021, but there’s hope. There’s been some serious vaccine development happening. My wife is expecting her second dose of the vaccine next week, and hopefully I’ll be in line soon enough.

One of the biggest differences between our current situation and pandemics and illnesses past, though, is that we have the luxury of many at-home devices and personal entertainment options. In 2020, I watched a ton of movies that I’ve owned for years and haven’t seen yet. I’ve read books and played video games that were on my list. I listened to new music and explored new genres. Money was also tight, though, as many people went without their normal income for months on end. My family unit was pretty concerned about this, so we canceled many of our unneeded services, and I went to watching older movies, classic movies, that I haven’t seen before as opposed to whatever was being dumped on Netflix. All this is a roundabout way of saying that I didn’t see a lot of newer movies this year, so my list won’t be as eclectic as it has in previous seasons, but I’m going to move through it the best I can and give you my thoughts on the best movies I saw last year. Really, though, I missed a lot of films I desperately wanted to see, so you could call this a list of 10 solid movies from last year. When it all shakes out, there may be a completely different set of films that would have made my Top Ten if this year had gone normally.

So, let’s do this the same way we’ve done it before, with a few obligatory stipulations and notes:

-As stated above, I did not see every film that was released in 2020. That would have been an impossibility, even in 2020. I saw as many as I could. Of course, as always, life happens and some films were missed. So if you don’t see something on this list, it doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t belong. I may just not have see it…yet. That, or it doesn’t belong.

-These are MY personal picks from the options available this year. These are not predictions for the Best Picture nominees of the Academy Awards nor are they undeniably the best films of the year where there is no cause for discussion. In fact, I pray for challenge and discussion. Some films have different placement at the end of the year than they would have based on their initial scoring, and some may have major flaws. Like I’ve said before, enjoyment goes a long way…

Alright, no more fluff, let’s do this thing.

  1. The Way Back

-This is a hard movie to watch, but I think we knew that going in. Ben Affleck, a recovering addict, in a movie, playing an addict. It was a recipe for a rough viewing, but the film comes off tremendously cathartic. It’s hard to call it a sports film because so much of the narrative seems to be focused on Affleck’s performance, but his work is so strong and painful that it stays with you long after the movie ends. My only problem is that the film seems to veer away from his alcoholism in order to give a classic sports film finale that seemed to reckon with his character arc, but other than that, this was an unforgiving character study.

  1. Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge

-I told you there might be some odd surprises here, and I wasn’t lying. Scorpion’s Revenge is probably the best Mortal Kombat film yet, an animated telling of the original mythology seen from the eyes of one of its most popular characters. The film is simple, and it’s purpose is only to entertain, but it does that and more with its stylish, hard-hitting action and an unforgiving and almost cruel fight sequences. I grew up playing the Mortal Kombat games and watching the (original!) movie, so it was great to see the WB Animation team (known for such tremendous work on the DC Animated films) to take a stab at this mythology, and it paid off.

  1. Gretel & Hansel

-I put off on watching this one back when theaters were still open. I really didn’t like Oz Perkins’s previous work on I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (in fact, it was my least favorite film of the year back when it came out), so seeing his take on the classic fairy tale Hansel & Gretel just didn’t seem to win me over. Even with the solid posters and trailers for the film, I felt like I was being set up for disappointment. Finally, I was swayed late in the year to check this one out and I’m so happy I did. There’s style and tone unique to this film that makes the classic story all anew once again. Sophia Lillis was tremendous in the lead role (a fitting choice to invert the names as such, as she owns the narrative), and I was impressed with Alice Krige’s take on the witch. This film oozes atmosphere and doesn’t overstay its welcome. If you slept on this horror tale like I did, seek it out as soon as you can.

  1. Da 5 Bloods

-I was on the opposite side of things for Spike Lee’s newest film. BlacKkKlansman was my favorite movie the year of its release, and the idea that Lee’s next film would be a Vietnam War film with a touch of the search for buries treasure was just bonkers enough to get my full attention. I didn’t really know what to expect, and I made sure to give the film the proper attention on the soonest night that I could sit back for the 150-minutes it required. Da 5 Bloods is not as polished as BlacKkKlansman, but it is nonetheless a staggering movie that attempts to reach a whole lot of different subjects, from war to friendship to aging to race and of course politics in our current state of the nation. Lee jumps from one unusual and captivating sequence to the next, all the while remembering to keep the film entertaining beyond anything else. I just had loads of fun with the movie’s action while also a quiet contemplation for some of its most serious and heartbreaking beats as well. This is another win for the exciting filmmaker.

  1. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

-It’s tough to make a sequel. It’s even tougher to make a comedy sequel. Even more so when it is a long-gestating comedy sequel of a pop cultural icon like Borat. Back in 2006, it was a huge success, so why did Sasha Baron Cohen return to make a sequel 14 years later? Trump, and the current political state. I was initially worried, but Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is a largely successful comedy sequel that tells a very simple story, mostly to get back into the undercover interview-style that Cohen’s comedy is usually mined from. I don’t think the movie 100% works as well as its predecessor, but it is a scathing view of American politics through an outside lens, one that asks more questions about the state of the nation while it also tackles a very human story of Borat connecting with his daughter. It also has one of the most shocking and talked about endings of any film from last year. I very much enjoyed Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, and I hope we see him again some day for a trilogy capper.

  1. The Invisible Man

-Man, I was so excited for the Dark Universe. Finally, a return to Universal’s monsters in a way that felt fresh and exciting in the wake of the successful MCU and cinematic universe model. Damn, I was disappointed when the entirety of the plan fell apart due to the poor quality and reception of The Mummy, so when I heard that Leigh Whannell would be helming another stab at the Universal Monsters with a simplistic and new take on The Invisible Man, I was excited with a hint of trepidation. I mean, The Invisible Man is not the most popular of these characters, he never interacted with the other monster in the way that Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, of The Wolf Man had. Still, he is an exciting filmmaker who has never steered me wrong, ever since his breakout writing work on the Saw films. Thankfully, The Invisible Man is an exciting and terrifying update on the mythos of the character (that has absolutely nothing to do with the H.G. Wells novel) and changes the central players to fit a more 2020 theme. It’s scary, exciting, and bold while all maintaining a $7 million budget. How Whannell was able to pull all that off with such a small budget is incredible, and outside a little bit of a uninspired ending, the film is a constantly galloping bit of excitement and shocks, with a phenomenal performance from Elisabeth Moss.

  1. Soul

-It’s nice to see a company like Pixar really flex their creativity with films like Soul. I’ve often recalled Pixar’s promise that they do not make animated movies strictly for children, and Soul is a movie that I can see not many children loving in the way they enjoy Toy Story. Soul is very much an adult animated movie that has a lot to say. I wasn’t really sure where it was going with its message (it seemed early on to shun those who chase their dreams) but when the film arrived at the destination, I found myself overwhelmed with the ideas at play and the gorgeous animation on display. The voice cast is terrific, the world-building is stunning, and the film’s themes are universal. It’s a heady movie, closer to a mix between Inside Out and Coco, that begs for multiple viewings. It’s just a shame it wasn’t a theatrical release because it would have been an incredible audience experience.

  1. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

-I had forgotten this one was based on a play when I started it, and I recall reading the play years ago, but a play like Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is impossible to enjoy from reading in the same way as it is viewed and performed. This is an excellent cast, including a potential career best from the late and great Chadwick Boseman, but make no mistake. There isn’t a single bad performance in this movie. It’s a bluesy and heartbreaking viewpoint into a world that I know little about. Boseman’s playing off of the other performers, specifically Viola Davis, is wonderful, but I have to sing the praises of Colman Domingo, who is an unsung hero in this movie. Domingo consistently puts out great work and never gets the credit I feel he is deserving of, and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is just another one of those incredible performances from the character actor. The run time is tight, the ending is impactful, and the staying power is strong. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is an incredible movie experience that adapts its source material better than even Fences a few years before (not to knock that film, but Fences felt like it was a filmed version of the play, whereas Ma Rainey felt more like an adaptation to film).

  1. The Trial of the Chicago 7

-I may be biased in selecting this for my #2 (either way, it belongs in the Top Ten), but I love a courtroom drama, and Aaron Sorkin’s newest film captures the excitement and tension of a great courtroom drama expertly here. Yes, you can throw all of your complaints about its accuracy, but this list is not the Top Ten Most Accurate Films of 2020 (that list would be boring). Sorkin’s fire-spitting dialogue makes for an excellent screenplay and his cast executes it perfectly. I never felt bored, I never checked my watch, and the film’s timeliness was oh-so-strong that it feels all the more present in 2020. Perhaps Sorkin’s directing has not reached the levels of the many filmmakers who have directed his previous screenplay’s, but it’s capable filmmaking with no flair but no flaws either, and his story and performers more than make up for it.

  1. Uncle Frank

-The strongest films of the year in 2020 seem to be the ones most excellently written. Look at the top five here. So many incredible stories that were written with precision and all meat, no fat. Uncle Frank is no exception. I honestly hadn’t heard of this film before getting a screener from Amazon. I didn’t even know that Alan Ball had written anything new recently. His direction is maybe a little more fine-tuned than Sorkin’s, having trained so much on his television work in Six Feet Under and True Blood, but again, the screenplay is what makes this film. That, and the excellent work from Paul Bettany in a restrained and honest performance. Sophia Lillis (she had a damn good year between this and Gretel & Hansel) keeps up nicely, as does Peter Macdissi, an actor that I’ve never seen so joyful and liberating as he is here. Even the supporting cast, from Steve Zahn to Margo Martindale, everyone is playing to their strengths. The story is simple, it’s one we’ve heard before, but its “truth” in realistic portrayals and difficult emotional character beats make Uncle Frank my favorite film of 2020.

There you have it. My Top Ten films of 2020. It was a tough year, and many of my most anticipated films from the beginning of the year were pushed off to this year, but what I did see was a big mix of films both good and bad. Here’s hoping 2021 gets us back to normal.

But hey, I want to see your Top Ten films of 2020. Leave them below and let me know what you thought of the films on my list! Happy New Year!

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror Part VII: The New Blood] Day 28 – [Happy 15th Birthday!] Saw II (2005)

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Cast: Donnie Wahlberg, Franky G, Glenn Plummer, Beverley Mitchell, Dina Meyer, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Erik Knudsen, Shawnee Smith, Tobin Bell
Screenplay: Leigh Whannell, Darren Lynn Bousman
93 mins. Rated R.

Saw was a horror phenomenon when it released in 2004. It surprised the hell out of me, as I didn’t expect to love it so much, to be rewatching it so regularly, trying to scope out clues and things I had missed before. It wasn’t for everyone, especially those unable to handle gore (even though the first actually didn’t contain as much as the franchise would be known for later on), but for me, there was another element that kept me entranced, and that was the story. I loved the mystery of the film, the clues, the references. I studied that film, and when the sequel came out, it didn’t arrive at my local theater and I was too young to drive to another town to see it, so I waited until the inevitable January DVD release, and I caught it. Now, looking back, let’s see how the first sequel to Saw holds up, and its influence on the direction of the series.

Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg, Ransom, Dreamcatcher) is a bad cop and a worse father. His life isn’t what he thought it was, and now he’s become the target of the villainous Jigsaw (Tobin Bell, Mississippi Burning, The Firm), a killer who likes to play games, set traps, and let his victims kill themselves in their struggle to survive. Eric and his former partner Kerry (Dina Meyer, Starship Troopers, Johnny Mnemonic) have discovered Jigsaw’s hideout, but they soon learn that catching Jigsaw will be tougher than they expected when Eric learns that his son Daniel (Erik Knudsen, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Scream 4) is also a part of Jigsaw’s next game. Now, Eric and Daniel are both playing for survival, and Jigsaw has a few surprises in store for both of them.

Saw II actually started as a completely different movie. Writer/director Darren Lynn Bousman (Repo! The Genetic Opera, Abattoir) had shopped around his script for a film called The Desperate and kept getting turned down, with most telling him that his movie was too similar to Saw. Eventually, the script found its way into the hands of Saw producers, who were looking to get a follow-up to the 2004 smash hit put together. Leigh Whannell, who scripted the original film, came in and adjusted the script into a Saw sequel, and the rest is horror history. In that way, Saw II is a bit of a unique flavor of the Saw films. It has most of Bousman’s writing stamps on it, and it has a look more in line with Bousman’s non-Saw films while still not straying away from the feel of the original. The screenplay, now adjusted to being a Saw sequel, is full of more of those clues and references to the connection with the original, and the way it ends up connecting is bonkers good. In fact, not even the cast was aware of the film’s ending and how it would play into the first film. Although, there are a few times when Jigsaw flat out lies to Eric, something he isn’t known for doing (he stretches the truth and leaves information out, but he never full-on lies to his victims and pawns), and that disappointed me a little.

Donnie Wahlberg is a standout here. His scenes with Tobin Bell as Jigsaw are amazing. The two have such different energies on display, and watching them collide is exhilarating while also highlighting their differences as characters and gives a lot of development to both. Remember, this film does a lot more heavy lifting of the Jigsaw mythos than the first film, in which [SPOILER ALERT!] Jigsaw spends most of the film lying in a bathroom covered in makeup and fake blood. Jigsaw gets to really flex his creed here and the reaction he gets from Eric works so well. Wahlberg’s work as Eric only highlights his own shortcomings as a cop, husband, and father.

Shawnee Smith (The Blob, Believe) also returns from the first film as Amanda, a character with limited but impactful screen time in the original (in fact, her scenes in the original were basically what the short film that inspired Saw were all about). Seeing her as someone who has survived Jigsaw’s game only to find herself back in it is horrifying, and we feel for her, but we also find a level of trust in her as she understands the game better than the others, and we cling to her for support. She also ends up in a fairly uncomfortable trap fighting for survival with the needle pit.

I also want to discuss the house trap, as it’s where most of the action of the film is. It’s a cool house with a lot of history and character to it, and seeing all these people trapped inside with slow-acting poison, looking for antidotes, it creates a larger set piece than the bathroom but doesn’t feel like it betrays the first film. It just has its own flavor, much like the rest of Saw II, probably carried over from Bousman’s earlier script. What I love about the way Bousman directs is that he tries to create a sense that the story never slows down by creating in-camera tricks in filming and editing that make scenes flow from one to the another without actually cutting. Look at the way Eric leaves his apartment early on and ends up at a crime scene. It’s a fascinating shot that emphasizes the best of Bousman’s ability to work low-budget and still create interesting and compelling cinema.

Saw II is still a step down from the first film, but it continues the story, elevates the characters, and develops the world-building of this franchise quite nicely while feeling like its own contained story. Yes, there are a few screenplay faults, there are more unlikable characters than likable ones, and the film maybe feels a bit too big at times, not allowing us to spend time with the cattle on their way to slaughter, but at least it highlights its most interesting characters like Jigsaw, Eric, Kerry, and Amanda, the ones who are developed enough to interest. I enjoyed the film immensely when I first saw it, and I still do, even if I’ve seen some of its faults on repeat viewings. I would still encourage fans of the original to see this one, and those who haven’t seen it in a while to consider revisiting it.

4/5
-Kyle A. Goethe

  • For my review of James Wan’s Saw, click here.
  • For my review of Darren Lynn Bousman’s Repo! The Genetic Opera, click here.
  • For my review of Darren Lynn Bousman’s The Devil’s Carnival, click here.
  • For my review of the anthology film Tales of Halloween, click here.
  • For my review of Darren Lynn Bousman’s Alleluia! The Devil’s Carnival, click here.

Dexter Fletcher to Shed Light on a Henchman with Renfield

I’m a big fan of Dexter Fletcher right now. Not only did he direct the recent Rocketman, he also came aboard to complete production on Bohemian Rhapsody after Bryan Singer was let go partway through shooting. Further back, he directed the criminally underrated and underseen Eddie the Eagle, a hugely entertaining biopic.

Now, according to Variety, Fletcher has been attached to helm Renfield, a film based on Dracula’s henchman from the novels and seen in many various forms across adaptations. In the 1931 Dracula, Renfield was an amalgam of the Renfield from the novel, a lunatic who is in allegiance with the vampire, and elements of the Jonathan Harker character from the novel. In Francis Ford Coppola’s version, Renfield retained much of the insanity and imprisonment that the character was originally intended to serve, so it will be interesting to see which version of Renfield we’ll be getting in Fletcher’s version. The Walking Dead‘s Robert Kirkman pitched the story and Rick & Morty‘s Ryan Ridley penned the flick.

I really like this idea, but I’m curious about Universal’s plan for these monster films. It certainly seems as though they abandoned any thought of the Dark Universe after the poor reception of The Mummy, an interesting notion because it was not the Dark Universe that made The Mummy bad; it was The Mummy not being very good that did it.

Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man, which is coming in the next few months, was previously discussed as a new low-budget entry point into a new Dark Universe, but since he was hired on, that hasn’t been mentioned since, so will Dexter Fletcher’s film be at all connected to that film or James Wan’s potential Frankenstein film, or even Paul Feig’s Dark Army monster film? I don’t need the answers right now, but it is becoming curiouser and curiouser.

There’s also the question of Dexter Fletcher’s involvement in Sherlock Holmes 3 and what’s the plan with that film? Will it come first or is Fletcher stepping away? This report raising lots of questions and very few answers.

So what do you think? Is Dexter Fletcher the right man for Renfield, and do you think he’s still attached to Sherlock Holmes 3? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Early Review] Insidious: The Last Key (2018)

Director: Adam Robitel

Cast: Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Josh Stewart, Caitlin Gerard

Screenplay: Leigh Whannell

103 mins. Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic content, violence and terror, and brief strong language.

 

The Insidious franchise is now four films in, and the newest installment, The Last Key, had me a little concerned when it was bumped back to January, oftentimes the graveyard of shitty horror films. I happen to be a big fan of this franchise, and I want to see it continue with more well-received reception. So I entered the theater with some trepidation tonight.

Shortly after the events of Chapter 3, Elise (Lin Shaye, There’s Something About Mary, Abattoir) and her newly-formed team of Specs (Leigh Whannell, Saw, The Bye Bye Man) and Tucker (Angus Sampson, Mad Max: Fury Road, TV’s Shut Eye) are drawn into a new case set in Five Keys, New Mexico. Elise initially turns down the case when she discovers that the house being haunted is her childhood home, a place with horrific memories from Elise’s past, but she quickly realizes that she has a responsibility to help others, and her team sets off on a trip through Elise’s past, where she will encounter familiar entities and new horrors.

The great thing about the newest installment in this franchise is the focus on the character of Elise. It’s become quite clear after four films that the star of the series is Lin Shaye, and choosing to further develop her is a terrific idea, as much as I’m turned away by the prequel aspect of the recent two films. Shaye’s performance is a powerhouse of the genre, and we spend a lot of the film focused on her inner demons, particularly surrounding the relationship with her father, Gerald (Josh Stewart, Interstellar, War Machine).

The big feeling I felt leaving the theater was one of calmness, though, and the lack of true terror in the film is noticeable. The previous installments all kept me close to my seat, but The Last Key is missing a lot of that. While there are indeed some incredible moments in the film, there just isn’t enough to spur up any actual dread. Diehard horror fanatics may find themselves unfulfilled in this respect.

Thankfully, director Adam Robitel (The Taking of Deborah Logan) keeps the pace moving and the plot thread twisting and turning enough to make the movie interesting, but it just isn’t all that scary.

Insidious: The Last Key is a classic fourth installment, searching for a place of purpose and struggling to find a tone. The film is entertaining and I think it will please fans of the series looking to unravel the mystery, but the general public and hardcore horror hounds may not find this scary enough to please.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of James Wan’s Insidious, click here.

For my review of Leigh Whannell’s Insidious: Chapter 3, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Saw (2004)

Director: James Wan

Cast: Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Monica Potter, Leigh Whannell, Michael Emerson, Ken Leung, Tobin Bell

Screenplay: Leigh Whannell

103 mins. Rated R for strong grisly violence and language.

 

Jigsaw is out now, the eighth film in the Saw franchise. Since Saw is one of my favorite series, I thought it best to revisit the convoluted mythology before attending the newest release.

Adam (Leigh Whannell, Insidious: Chapter 2, The Bye Bye Man) awakens in a tub in total darkness. He soon learns that he is in a large unknown bathroom and his leg is shackled to one corner. Shackled at the other end is Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes, The Princess Bride, Anna Nicole), another man who has no recollection as to how he ended up there. Lawrence and Adam are in a trap designed by the infamous uncaptured Jigsaw killer and that they must use all the tools they have to escape, even if that means cutting off their feet.

Saw is absolutely brilliant horror filmmaking. Director James Wan (The Conjuring 2, Furious 7) proves his worth in his first feature-length film based on a short he created with actor/writer Leigh Whannell. This is independent filmmaking at its finest, especially given the rushed schedule. The film had five days pre-production, the entire production schedule lasted eighteen days, and musician Charlie Clouser had three weeks to score the film. In essence, he created one of the most catching and memorable musical themes ever.

It’s extremely difficult to pull off a feat like this, with only two actors getting most of the screentime, but lead Elwes commands the screen and the whodunit nature of this first installment is exhilarating, as is the shocking finale.

Many people have taken issue with Saw’s reliance on gore over actual horror, and while it would be difficult to deny that, even the franchise’s haters can attest to the low level of gore in this first installment. It only came later that the increasing nature of sequels that the franchise got the reputation for torture porn (a term I will fight tooth and nail against).

Saw is a fabulous horror film, one of my absolute favorites. I watch it quite often as it is the best of the franchise. Wan’s masterful directing shows why he is such a name in Hollywood right now. If you’ve avoided Saw due to its graphic nature, I implore you to give it a try…if only a few minutes.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of James Wan’s Insidious, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s The Conjuring, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Furious 7, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s The Conjuring 2, click here.

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 2 – Insidious (2010)

insidious2010a 

Director: James Wan

Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey

Screenplay: Leigh Whannell

103 mins. Rated PG-13 for thematic material, violence, terror and frightening images, and brief strong language.

 

On this second day of our 31 Days of Horror, I want to talk about a modern classic from one of my favorite filmmakers currently working: James Wan (Saw, Furious 7). The film is Insidious.

insidious2010c

The Lambert family is almost finished unpacking after their big move. Josh (Patrick Wilson, TV’s Fargo, The Conjuring) is busy with his new teaching position. Renai (Rose Byrne, X-Men: First Class, Spy) is juggling packing boxes, her infant child, and her struggling passion for music. But when her son Dalton mysterious enters a comatose state and she begins hearing loud noises and seeing suspicious figures around her home, she learns that her son has become a conduit that insidious and nefarious spirits are using to enter our realm. Now, Josh and Renai have enlisted the help of paranormal investigators Elise, Specs, and Tucker to rescue Dalton from a place called The Further.

Insidious is one of my absolute favorite recent horror films. Director James Wan utilizes tone and style to create his scares, launching some very effective jump scares because of it.

First of all, if you want to build an effective horror film, there are a few great ways to do it. Having Grade-A quality performers helps a lot. I’m talking about Wilson, Byrne, Barbara Hershey (Black Swan, Riding the Bullet), who plays Josh’s mother Lorraine, and of course veteran character actress Lin Shaye, who knocks it out of the park as Elise, the lead paranormal investigator.

The second way to build fear is through creating an effective and powerful tone. Wan balances his tone with heavy use of sound and music and juxtaposing them with scenes of more lighthearted fare featuring Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson).

Now, it’s true that the film forces fear through its sound work (often, the music cues the scare before the scare actually happens) and the final reveal of the beast vying for Dalton’s vessel (played by orchestrator Joseph Bishara) could’ve been better if not fully revealed, but these are minor flaws that lessen over multiple views.

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Insidious builds a mythology very solidly over the course of its runtime and inhabits its world with interesting characters and frightful apparitions. This is a great film for those filmgoers that can’t handle the gore of heavier films that we see in today’s horror films. Big buy.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Leigh Whannell’s Insidious: Chapter 3, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Furious 7, click here.

Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)

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Director: Leigh Whannell

Cast: Dermot Mulroney, Stefanie Scott, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell, Hayley Kiyoko, Lin Shaye

Screenplay: Leigh Whannell

97 mins. Rated PG-13 for violence, frightening images, some language and thematic elements.

 

Horror sequels are often looked at as a lesser film than the original. Horror prequels have it even worse. So how does Insidious: Chapter 3 (a sequel that is actually a prequel) stack up?

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Set two years before the haunting of the Lambert Family, Insidious: Chapter 3 follows Sean Brenner (Dermot Mulroney, TV’s Shameless, My Best Friend’s Wedding) and his daughter Quinn (Stefanie Scott, Wreck-It Ralph, No Strings Attached). Quinn has been trying to contact her deceased mother, but something else has reached back. She needs the help of gifted but retired paranormal investigator Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye, There’s Something About Mary, Ouija).

Being a prequel limits this installment to certain franchise pitfalls. Many prequels make the mistake of referencing future events in a tongue-in-cheek way. This is one area where, for the most part, the film doesn’t disappoint. There are two scenes at the end that make this mistake, but the earlier sequences of the film that make reference to the Lamberts and the haunting. It is a smart decision to tell an original story within the series as opposed to tell a story that leads directly the opening of the first installment.

New director Whannell, known for writing the first three installments of the Saw franchise, Dead Silence, and all three Insidious films, takes over for directing partner James Wan who makes a cameo known but was busy on Furious 7 at the time. He does a somewhat mediocre job handling the many hats of a filmmaker, but there is some serious potential here. The film’s scary sequences are hit-and-miss, but Whannell shows that he can learn from mistakes, so I have faith in his abilities.

The big winner here is Lin Shaye, who has an exploding career so far into her career. She carries this film so well that it is easy to overlook many of the failures, and it is fun to see her initial interactions with Tucker (Angus Sampson, TV’s Fargo, Mad Max: Fury Road) and Specs (played by Whannell).

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Insidious: Chapter 3 is the third best film in this franchise. It stumbles at times but shows definite talent for its cast and crew. I can see the forward trajectory of this series making its mark. Fans of the series should enjoy themselves; everyone else need not apply.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of Insidious: Chapter 3? Did it take you Further or did you sleep well after? Let me know!

 

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