I'd been really annoyed with horror movies as of late. For the longest time there were so many horror movies that didn't actually get the ball rolling until nearly an hour into the film and most of those were like only 90 minutes. Much like Drag Me to Hell, this at least makes no bones about letting you know what kind of film it is or even allowing you to see the face of some malevolent creature. Many horror movies seem to have characters that exist as if the genre had never been invented. It's like it's not part of their pop culture so the movie itself is treated as if you don't know anything about what you're about to watch. Then there's the other side of the coin where you have characters that are horrorholics, but still make the same dumbass mistakes. This at the very least assumes you know what kind of movie you're watching and a little something about it. It doesn't fuck around with you by watching doors open close without a reason. From the opening shot you know there's something fucked up sitting around and waiting. This something fucked up is what I like to call Tim Burton with a flashlight.
While this follows all the conventions of a horror flick it still manages to keep things happening all the time. You may not know all the reasons, but at least you're not bored. And that's the trick. Just have more of the creepout moments and spookout happen in more rapid succession instead of lingering on characters that we may not have time to care about in a 90-minute flick anyway. And that's what I hate about where modern horror was going for a while there. The time spent on attempting to make you care for characters that could be murdered. Most of the characters that occupy movies and the actors that play them are typically dull and uninteresting people to appeal to a wider audience. And it's certainly true here. At least you have Lin Shaye and Patrick Wilson, but you already know these actors and they're likable from other things you've seen. But of course, the real star of the show here is James Wan and all the creatures. But still. Don't ask me what Darth Maul was doing here. I guess this is where The Force shat his ass out.
You know who else is in this? Barbara Hershey. Not the Academy Award nominated actress, but the one who was ecto-raped in The Entity and is geekly famous for that. Well, that and being Naveen Andrews sugar mama. But for the most part everyone else knows her as the Oscar-bate actress from Hoosiers, The Natural and Hannah and Her Sisters. Watching her back in a genre flick was actually quite interesting. She helps serve a lot to one of the many creatures in one of her anecdotes about a creature in the corner of her grandson's room.
But this flick is not without problems. There are moments where it's already established that the mom believes that there is at least one entity in the house, but when a child starts screaming, she doesn’t run or come to the aid as quickly as you would think. And it’s not like she’s scared. It’s more like, “Hey, I wonder what my kid is screaming at. I hope it’s not that creepy-ass voice on the baby monitor or my kid falling off a ladder in the attic and landing himself in a coma.” Many of the characters are in fact cutouts because what’s not import are the characters but the array of monsters, ghosts, beasts or whatever. And the biggest problem of the movie is when Lin Shaye arrives on the scene a la Zelda Rubinstein in Poltergeist about 45 minutes into the flick and then proceeds to establish the mythology of the ghosts and what she calls The Further which is a dimension where all ghosts like to party and shit. Once she explains all the physics and how things work, you immediately know how the movie is going to end and what this is all about. I don’t expect to be fooled by a film’s twist ending. In fact, many of them are actually figured out beat for beat mainly because we’ve been down this road in countless stories. But if your movie is going to end on a twist that you can see five miles out, you might as well add another 10 minutes to deal with it. Otherwise it feels like the writer said, “Hey, I’ve got 90 pages and a lot of shit so far. Page 90. Fade out.” Sorry, Leigh Whannel. You needed another 10 pages. You didn’t have to put a pretty, little bow on it, but you didn’t have up look like you just up and quit. However, at least it wasn’t the other side of the coin where NOTHING fucking happens and then you’re forced into a shitty twist ending.