150 Movies in 90 Days: Insidious and The Book of Eli

June 30: #28, Insidious

Another day, another mediocre PG-13 horror movie

I'm over the whole PG-13 horror film phenomenon. Yes, I get it- it makes more sense to make a movie that teenagers can get into and ruin for everybody else who is there to watch the damn thing. After all, they're the jerks with all the disposable income. But come on. Can we get a little artistic integrity here? I mean, the problem with making films that specifically avoid leaving out people aged 13-16 is that you can accidentally end up making a movie for people aged 13-16.

You know, people who haven't seen 1,000 "haunted house" films before and thus, might not be completely bored with all of the tropes that fill the first half of Insidious, in other words. You know what I'm talking about: doors open on their own, or (gasp!) even close! People see things that seem to be out of their imagination. Then, you have to have at least one visit from a pastor, priest, exorcist, or psychic. Hey, if you have the money, call all four!

But mostly, doors open and close. A lot.

The first half of Insidious is seriously just a paint-by-numbers haunted house flick, even though it's a pretty good one, stylishly-directed and well-acted. Sure, it isn't the house that is specifically haunted... the fact that the problems follow the family to their new domicile is the first really creative thing that takes place in this film. Of course, you know it's going to happen since the foreshadowing is laid on thicker than a hooker's makeup (director James Wan gives us shot after shot of a grandfather clock), but we'll take what we can get.

When you see the direction the film goes when it starts to shoot for something original, you almost wish they'd have stuck to the typical stuff, instead. We get into astral projection and other stuff that seems forced into the narrative, which leads to a trip to the demon's lair. Now, the demon's lair is pretty cool, and the demon himself is pretty freaky looking, but the film has no real teeth, and you know nobody is really in danger. By the time you realize that the demon isn't going to use the scary claws he's been ominously sharpening to actually hurt someone (because in typical PG-13 style, he'd rather simply throw people around the room), there isn't much reason to fear him, though.

Other than the fact that he's obviously related to Darth Maul, of course.
Insidious has some spooky moments, especially when we first get introduced to the demon. Even the stereotypical creepily smiling girls are at least unsettling, even if they're now a horror film cliché. The acting is pretty damn good for a horror flick, as Patrick Wilson (the father) is good and everyone else does a capable job of selling fear and growing tension. Overall though, this is just another forgettable, mediocre horror film in a proud genre that deserves better. Grade: C-

July 1: #29, The Book of Eli

Abandon all hope, ye who desire strong female characters

Your enjoyment of The Book of Eli strongly depends on what you are hoping to get out of the film. As a huge nerd (go figure, right?) who loves the Fallout series of video games, I was pretty much hoping that this would essentially be Fallout: The Movie. For the first half of the movie, I was pretty pleased, then. I was not, of course, expecting well-rounded characters or fair treatment of women, because even before I saw this film I used it as evidence for a paper about the tendency of post-apocalyptic storytelling to only use women as helpless pawns.

In The Book of Eli, you do not meet a single female character who isn't an indentured servant, a tool who uses her sexuality to help raiders prey upon tourists, a rape/murder victim, or a straight-up prostitute. See, because women can't survive the apocalypse! They lack the big biceps and uh, other stuff that dudes totally have that you need to survive, you see.

What is the "other stuff"? Well, if you watch Eli (Denzel Washington), you quickly learn that the "other stuff" is "the ability to kill a lot of men very quickly while avoiding any type of injury." Oh, and let's not forget weapon skills. Because it's important to have skills.

Pictured: Guy who knows what it takes to survive the apocalypse
Okay, though. Let's say that you haven't had your mind altered by a dozen college-level English courses in a way that ruins movies for you for the rest of your life. You'll probably like The Book of Eli, and I pretty much did, too.

Denzel is good for a number of things, such as Attacking People Very Suddenly and Speaking In A Firm, Forceful Tone. Those abilities are put to good use here. The screenplay even lets him laugh a couple of times! The other person you'll see a lot is Mila Kunis, and though I'm not necessarily a huge fan of hers, I do find her a) very sexy and b) quite tolerable. Not here, though. In no way, shape, or form is she very believable as a girl who has grown up in a post-apocalyptic wasteland and has been hardened by what is essentially a life of slavery. Now, once you forget who she's supposed to be and just pretend that she's Mila Kunis playing in the desert, it's not so bad. But I'm pretty sure that's not what the Hughes brothers intended.

Speaking of the Hughes brothers, I've always liked their work, even if something like Menace II Society seems like a parody now (it still holds up better than John Singleton's Higher Learning). They're good here, particularly in the fight scenes and with some predictably awesome panoramic shots of Denzel walking in the wasteland. In one pivotal shootout in particular (you'll know the one), they maneuver the cameras from inside a house through a window, to where the opposition are firing angrily, sweeping around to show the carnage as it takes place before going backwards through the window and into the house where it all started, without a single cut. Plenty of inspired sequences like this are seen in the film and help it to stay out of the realm of "forgettable action flick" that the second half of the movie wants to drag down to. Grade: B


  1. Mila Kunis ruined this
    movie forever. she 's the worst person of all time

  2. Hahaha! I knew you'd say something!

    You know, I doubted you when you went to see it, but she really does ruin it.