Posted tagged ‘james wan’

Insidious Film Review by Sam

May 22, 2011

I have always struggled to distinguish between the genres of horror and thriller. When someone asks me to tell him or her if a particular film is a thriller or horror, I am never quite sure what answer to give. Well, what does the dictionary say?

The Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary defines the word horror as a “painful feeling of loathing and fear” and thriller as “exciting or sensational,” which therefore leads me to, well not much of a conclusion.

I guess, perhaps, a film can be both ‘thriller’ and ‘horror’. To me, when I think of thriller, I think of jumpy scenes and twists, whereas horror seems like it’s more of the gory stuff.

Why am I trying to define horror and thriller films, I hear you ask? Well, quite plainly it’s because I’m trying to decide what sort of film Insidious was. Which leads me to my first film review of the year (I know, that’s horrendous it has taken this long).

Insidious Film Poster

I’d like to say I’m a follower of both James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s career, mainly because I absolutely loved their first feature film (you may have heard of it, it’s a little film called SAW), and because, like me, they’re both Aussies. So needless to say, I was anticipating Insidious quite a bit.

Let me highlight what I did and didn’t like about it.

Firstly, similarly to SAW, it had a tight budget of around $1 million, but unlike SAW, I could tell. It may have been their intention, but it just felt a like it struggled on some of the technical aspects. For example, whilst for the most part the cinematography was quite good, I just felt there was a lack of quality to the image – it just didn’t have that cinematic feel like most films do. Secondly, it felt to me as if there were a lot of missing elements, the most obvious were some sound effects. Perhaps they ran too tightly to the budget and so they had to skip out on a few elements, or maybe it was an intentional choice made by the director, but I found this to be somewhat distracting.

I thought the director; James Wan handled the content of this film brilliantly. His work on this film was extremely unique and there were so many exceptional stylistic elements that I found fascinating. Wan did succeed in achieving the ‘old-style,’ classic thriller he was going for, and I think it takes huge talent to pull off what he did.

On another note, the story could have been a bit better. Now, in saying this, I realise I should have known full well that this was going to be a supernatural film, but I felt it just went a little too far. The entire build up during the first half of this film was good, although it did at times feel like a professionally filmed version of Paranormal Activity. Additionally, as the film progressed I felt that rather than leaving things to the imagination of the audience, the filmmaker’s became too blatant with what they showed.

The highlight of the film was the comic relief that came in the form of the screenwriter Leigh Whannell and fellow Aussie actor, Angus Sampson. Whilst displaying great performances, they also provided many laughs, and I was thrilled with their inclusion in the film.

The ending was quite good also. Whilst the film didn’t do the full 180-degree twist as SAW did (which was a little disappointing that it didn’t), it did have this extra element, which gave the film a thrilling finish; so props to the writers for that.

Whilst I am aware that the filmmakers are trying to escape from the identity that SAW has given them, I believe that they should remain on the path of ‘plausible’ films, rather than supernatural thrillers. I believe they succeeded extremely well at pulling of a classic supernatural thriller film (which seems to be a tough thing to do these days), but I just feel that there’s just more scope for them outside of this supernatural genre.

Nonetheless, it was a successful supernatural thriller, but due to the fact I am not a huge fan of this genre, I give it 3 film reels out of 5.



Top 10 Twists in Movies by Sam (No Spoilers)

July 15, 2010

We’ve all probably watched a film that has led us down one path, but then at the very end, does a complete 180, and reveals something crazy. This is often referred to as a twist, or a surprise ending, and I myself, am an avid lover of a film with a solid twist. In light of this, I thought I would put together a list of the top 10 twists that I’ve seen. Yes, I am aware I normally compile lists of five, but I couldn’t fit all my favourites, so I made it ten.

10. Primal Fear (1996)

Directed by Gregory Hoblit

Primal Fear PosterThe twist in this film was quite good, and kind of unexpected. The reason I say “kind-of” is because the type and style of the film don’t really lead audiences to be waiting on the edge your chair, waiting for something to be revealed, but when I hired this film, it was because I personally had heard it had a pretty good twist in it. It still does belong on this list.

9. Identity (2003)

Directed by James Mangold

Identity PosterThe twist in this film was a little left of field compared to what I thought it could have been. I thought it was just going to be a “who-dunnit” type twist, but it takes quite an unexpected turn at the end. Definitely a worthy inclusion to the list.

8. The Usual Suspects (1995)

Directed by Bryan Singer

The Usual Suspects PosterThis film is known to be a classic, but I only actually watched it in the last year or so. I will say that the twist is really good, but I had been told prior to watching that there was a twist, and I semi-guessed it towards the start. It was only a brief thought that popped into my head, and it’s because this type of twist is now quite common, and has been seen in a lot of films of the last decade. In saying this, it would have been a mind-blowing twist had I not seen so many films that were made after this film.

7. Memento (2000)

Directed by Christopher Nolan

This was such a clever film, in the way that it was made, and the way the story unfolded. Who would have ever thought to play out the events of a movie in reverse? This led to there being surprises placed all throughout the film, explaining how Guy Pearce’s character got to the events we just saw him in (is that as confusing as it sounds?). The final twist was very cleverly executed, and whilst it delivers satisfaction, it also leaves the viewer thinking for a while long after the credits have rolled. A sign of a great film.

6. The Skeleton Key (2005)

Directed by Iain Softley

This film left me thinking for weeks after I had watched it. The twist was extremely eerie and creepy, and it was awesome! The entire film itself was very spooky, and had some very dark themes, but the final twist that was delivered was very thought provoking. My family and I were asking questions about what had just happened, and were very impressed, scared, but impressed nonetheless.

5. The Others (2001)

Directed by Alejandro Amenábar

This film had a ripper twist. Yes, the entire film was very supernatural, but the twist was well conceived, and executed extremely well. One of those twists that completely rips out what you had just originally thought, and shoves something completely new in your face – awesome stuff!

4. Se7en (1995)

Directed by David Fincher

This film was so well written, and you have to be a genius to think of a twist like this. It’s so complicated, yet so simple at the same time. It just delivers an awesome blow to the face when the ending is revealed.

3. The Prestige (2006)

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Chris Nolan once again delivers a brilliant film, with a brilliant twist ending. Actually, there are multiple twists in this film, and they are all awesome. I remember constantly thinking about it for some time after it ended. I was blown away by this film.

2. Fight Club (1999)

Directed by David Fincher

Fight Club is one of the greatest films of all time. I love the line that the protagonist says when the twist is revealed, “We have just lost cabin pressure.” That exactly sums up the feeling I had when this twist was revealed.

I must admit, I wasn’t expecting anything of what I saw when I watched Fight Club. I was expecting a film more to the likes of say, Green Street Hooligans, a film that focuses primarily on fighting. What I got was a plot-driven thrill ride, with a sweet as twist at the end.

1. Saw (2004)

Directed by James Wan

Personally, this is one of my favourite films, due to the sheer cleverness of the story, and how mind-blowing the twist was. I thought I had this one figured out. I knew that this film had some sort of twist before I watched it, I just didn’t know what it was. When about the 75-minute mark hit, I thought I had figured it out, and I was a little disappointed to say the least. But, I was punched hard in the face when the actual twist revealed itself. My jaw literally dropped, and I couldn’t believe the creativity of the twist. How does someone come up with a twist like this? I wish I had that skill. This is definitely the greatest twist in my books. The film as a whole is brilliance, but this twist is just shocking, excellent, mind-boggling… you get the point.

Honourable Mentions

I know that I have to mention The Sixth Sense, and I thought I would explain the reason why it’s not on my top 10 list. I have never had the privilege of watching this film without knowing what the ending was. You can blame 50 First Dates, or maybe the fact that it is just such a famous twist, but regardless of the reason, I have never experienced the true shock value of what the twist is, and therefore I can’t make a just decision whether it belongs on this list.

I love a brilliant twist, and would love to know of some more films I haven’t yet seen that have an awesome twist. If you know of any, let me know in the comments below.