A random series of Halloween movie posts: Insidious, Grave Encounters

Finding new horror movies that I will enjoy isn’t always as easy as I’d like, because I’m kind of picky about it. I like the classic slashers–your Halloweens, your Screams and occasionally, if nothing better comes along, your Friday the 13ths–but for the most part I prefer hauntings to stabbings. I tolerate gore pretty well if I’m otherwise interested in the movie, but I don’t get much of a kick out of it, so if something looks like a straight-up gorefest I’m likely to pass it by. Torture porn usually leaves me an unpleasant mix of uncomfortable and bored. Sexual violence isn’t a trigger or a strict deal-breaker, but I feel like I’ve seen so much cinematic rape at this point that unless a movie offers something else to make it worth my while, I end up in the uncomfortable-yet-bored place again. I like ghosts and old creepy houses and suspense, but the jackpot, ghosts-and-creepiness movies that actually, really scare me, seem all too rare sometimes.

So when I find them, I get pretty excited. That’s what tonight’s subjects are–recently made and recently watched movies that gave me some genuine scares along with an enjoyable viewing experience. BONUS: they are both available on Netflix Instant, or at least were at the time of this writing.


Insidious is my new favorite horror movie. It is practically everything I want in a horror movie and almost nothing I don’t want (I could do with fewer Shrieky Violin moments on the soundtrack, because I feel like Shrieky Violins on horror soundtracks are often used as a crutch–it’s not hard to make ANYTHING seem scary when you accompany it with that sound, and I end up wishing they would stop torturing that poor violin and let the scares stand or fall on their own /Shrieky Violin rant). Insidious is about a family (parents played wonderfully by Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson) who start experiencing a haunting at around the same time that their oldest son falls into a coma. Rose Byrne gets sufficiently freaked out that she convinces Patrick Wilson that they need to move–and the haunting follows them to their new house.

That right there is enough for me to like it. They accept that freaky shit happening! The husband chooses to believe a haunting is possible rather than believe his wife is crazy! THEY MOVE OUT OF THE HOUSE!…And it doesn’t work.

Insidious offers a good blend of classic horror moments–if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it–and inventiveness that makes it stand out from other haunting movies. It has neat cinematography and some excellent scares. And it has Lin Shaye (an actress I didn’t really know before watching it and now I want to watch everything she’s ever been in because of how much I love her in this) as Elise Rainier. Forget Tangina–if I ever find out my house is haunted, I want Elise on the job.

I believe there’s supposed to be a sequel coming out in 2013, which is good because THE ENDING. I’m not going to say anymore than that, but jeeeeez, the ending.

Grave Encounters

Okay, so–I watch a fair amount of horror movies. I tend to watch them alone in my apartment at night. I get a little wigged out, I jump at the “Gotcha!” moments, I double-check that my front and back doors are both securely locked before going to sleep. Usually, that’s about how scared I get. Usually, the only reason I won’t finish one on the first viewing is because it doesn’t hold my interest.

Grave Encounters freaked me out so much that I paused it about two-thirds of the way through so that I could finish watching it in broad daylight the next morning.

It’s a found-footage movie, but don’t let that prejudice you against it. The cast of a Ghosthunters-type show, who of course have never seen real evidence of the supernatural and are all jaded, set out to do an episode in an abandoned psychiatric hospital, which is of course actually haunted. Badness ensues. But not at first–they spend the night in the hospital, and there’s some creepy foreshadowing but nothing much. And then they get ready to leave. And then something happens, which I will not spoil for you, but was the reason I spent the rest of the movie with my heart pounding and eventually decided I needed to take a break if I wanted to sleep that night.

It’s hard to convey why I got so freaked out without just saying what it is, and I wish I could, because it’s something I think may not be super-scary to everyone but is PURE, UNADULTERATED NIGHTMARE FUEL for me. It has to do with feeling like the rug has been yanked right out from under your feet, that nothing makes sense anymore and you don’t have a chance because everything you think you know about how to survive in a haunted house will do you no good here. It has very little to do with the scary-face ghost girl in the trailer, but she doesn’t hurt.

I both want more horror movies like Grave Encounters, and don’t want them, ever, because I am fond of sleeping without nightmares. Oh, hey, there’s a sequel now…


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