Leigh Whannell

Bye Bye Man

Saying that I didn’t enjoy this film would be to lenient and purposefully dishonest. I hated this film. Bye Bye Man was next to unwatchable due to how boring it is. The premise is ok, but that’s all this film is, a premise. Who or what The Bye Bye Man is or how he came to be is never even brought up. Which might not matter for some, but it really matters for me.

In 1969 journalist Larry Redmond (Leigh Whannell) goes on a shooting spree. He asks his victims if they’ve mentioned “The Name” and to who if they did, as he kills everyone that has heard the name he continuously repeats “Don’t say it. Don’t think it”. His spree ends with him taking his own life.

Modern day, Elliot (Douglas Smith) along with his girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas) and his best friend John (Lucien Laviscount) move into an off campus house. Once they move in strange events start to occur. Sasha develops a persistent cough, while Elliot finds coins on the nightstand table. Eventually while looking around the house, which came fully furnished, Elliot comes across a nightstand. Inside the drawer is the phrase “Don’t think it, Don’t say it” written over and over and carved into back corner is the name The Bye Bye Man. After this the creepiness of the house increases until Sasha convinces Elliot to host a seance led by their friend Kim (Jenna Kanell). During the seance Elliot mentions the name, infecting everyone in the room. As it turns out knowing the name allows the Bye Bye Man to influence your mind. Things begin to deteriorate quickly as Elliot looks into the history of the drawer and into the Bye Bye Man. Elliot goes to Kim for help, which she agrees to do. Though by help I mean intended to pull a Larry and kill everyone that’s heard the name. But she runs in front a train trying to help a hallucination. Elliot gets questioned by the police about this, and find him more than a little shady. After being released Elliot goes the library to hunt down the former own of the drawers, where learns about Larry and Larry’s living wife. Wondering how she has managed to survive the influence of the Bye Bye Man for so long, he goes to see her. But the answer she has aren’t the answers he hopes for…

I can’t think of a single aspect of this film that wasn’t ineptly done. From the acting, to the writing the whole film is weak. Underwhelming isn’t even close to my feelings here. The Bye Bye Man barley functions as a horror film due to the tedium it forces on its viewers.

The acting is simply terrible and not in a cute, enjoyable way that makes the film watchable. The kind that makes the films run time drag out for what feels like an eternity. The only actor to do a good job was Michael Trucco, who plays Elliot’s older brother Virgil. He along with Erica Tremblay, who plays his daughter Alice are probably the best part of this film. The one time the horror worked for me was during the film’s climax and it worked in large part to these two’s performances.

The films pacing is brutally slow. It’s 93 minute run time stretches out for what feel like forever as your wait for anything to happen. The threat is often talked about, but never comes off as threatening. The drama always comes off to cold and the frights never hit the mark. The mood will try to shift and move but comes across as sloppy and ill-conceived.

Final thoughts, this film took the wind out of me folks. I love horror films, I can’t really describe  my level of disappointment. This is what passes as a major release horror film? So often I’m upset when I see a horror film and regret not seeing it in theatres while I had the chance. Here I’m upset that I didn’t let this one pass. 2/10

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Insidious: Chapter 3

Insidious-Chapter-3-poster-1The Insidious franchise knows how to make sequels. I found the series original film to be less than stellar, and still have a few issues with it. The Second Chapter was an improvement and Insidious: Chapter Three continues to raise the bar. With Leigh Whannell doing an amazing job stepping into the director’s chair.

Insidious: Chapter 3 focuses on Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott), who’s grappling with the loss of her mother. In an effort to contact her, Quinn visits Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye). Elise is currently retired from being a medium as she’s also dealing with loss of a loved one. Elise warms up to Quinn and agrees to help as a kindness. But, Elise feels the presence of another spirit and warns Quinn to never call out to or try to contact her mother again, as when you call out to one of the dead all of them can hear you. That night Quinn does just that, calls out to her mother after hearing some strange noises.  Quinn skips school the next day to audition for a NY preforming arts school and while auditioning, she notices a strange figure watching her. That evening while fearing she had blown her audition, Quinn gets distracted by the same figure waving to her. This results in Quinn being hit by a car as she stopped in the middle of the road. At the hospital suffering sever injuries Quinn dies and passes into the Further. Inside she see’s the figure again, The Man Who Can’t Breath (Micheal Reid MacKay), before she’s pulled back into our world thanks to a shot of adrenaline. Once Quinn returns home, she is bed bound having suffered multiple breaks in both legs. The paranormal occurrences pick back up and start happening more frequently and after being attacked by the spirit repeatedly, Quinns father, Sean Brenner (Dermot Mulroney) seeks the aid of Elise, who turns him away. So, he turns to a pair of ghost chasers Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), who quickly realize they’re out of their league. Luckily, Elise has changed her mind after visiting with Carl (Steve Coulter). She quickly enlists both Specs and Tucker to save Quinn from the Man Who Can’t Breath.

I like that this movie is a prequel of sorts and its placement within the franchises mythos. I liked seeing how Spec and Tucker came to work with Elise, as well as Elise’s character arc over the course of the film. Beginning with her being scared and afraid, and transitioning into the calm and confident Elise of the films.

Lin Shaye’s performances just keep improving and I really enjoy what she does with her character. But as great as she is, the actress that knocked her role out of the park is without a doubt Stefanie Scott. I was completely unfamiliar with her before this film and I really hope she does more horror films in the future as I feel she would make an outstanding scream queen. Sadly that’s where the good acting ends, as the rest of the cast being lack-luster with Dermot Mulroney’s performance being the worst. He came off more as an asshole, than a father who’s stretched thin and trying to deal with the loss of his wife.

Final thoughts, even with the weak performances this film is worth seeing. Lin Shaye and Stefanie Scott do a splendid job carrying this movie to the point where the poor performances fall to wayside as you’re watching them. The pacing and tone delivered by Leigh Whannell are both consistent and sublime and I find Micheal Reid MacKay’s performance to be genuinely unnerving . Easily my favorite entry into the series, Insidious: Chapter 3 deserves a score to reflect his. 8.5/10

Insidious: Chapter 2

Insidious-Chapter-2-PosterInsidious: Chapter 2 is an American Horror sequel with both Leigh Whannell and James Wan returning as writer and director respectively. It’s my strong opinion that this a good addition to the story as it focus on the cliffhanger ending of the first film. This film is better than the original for a number of reasons, namely the addition of Steve Coulters character Carl.

(SPOILER if you still haven’t seen the Insidious, I suggest you stop reading.) Insidious: Chapter 2 opens with a flashback scene to 1986 to when Josh was trouble be the ghost of the old woman. Lorraine has obtained the aid of a medium Carl, who asks the aid of friend Elise to save Josh as a child. After Elise is attacked by a ghost in a closet, she and Carl use hypnosis to make Josh forget his abilities. Now we jump ahead to just after the first film and its aftermath. Elise is dead and Josh being suspected of the murder. The Lamberts move into Lorraines home when the haunting starts to resume. In need of aid, but without Elise, Lorraine reaches out to Carl for him to contact Elise with his word dice. Lorraine, Carl, Specs and Tucker follow a series of clues from the dice to Our Lady of Angels hospital then to an old decrepit home. We learn of Parker Crane, one of Lorraines patients while she worked at the hospital 25 years ago and who lived in the home. We learn that he is the woman in black and was a serial killer back when he was alive. We also learn while in the home that it’s not Elise that has been aiding them through the dice but Parkers mother. While this is happening, Josh who has been possessed by Parkers spirit is starting to age rapidly due a dead spirit living within the living flesh. Lorraine and the other rush back to try save Joshs family before Parker Crane can kill them. Things don’t go well for our would be heroes as Crane gets the upper hand. Carl after being attacked awakens in the Further to be greeted by Joshs spirit. The two set out to find Elise and ask for her aid. After finding her, she helps to guide them the place where Cranes memories and the spirit of his mother live for a final battle to save Josh.

So some of the things that work very well this time around was simply that all the characters know of what was happening. The main thing that annoys me about most ghost/possession films is that two-thirds of the film are often one character trying to convince others that ghosts/haunting are real. But since that groundwork was laid in the last film the pace in Insidious: Chapter 2 picks up much faster and spends more time developing the story of the ghost of Parker Crane.

Another aspect I enjoy is the addition of the character Carl. While exceedingly undeveloped as a character I still found very relatable and incredibly likable. I also enjoyed the use of dice as his medium through which he contacted the spirit world. It felt like interesting approach the very cliche role of the spirit medium. He came across as caring, but worn down, which adds to his likability. We never learn much of Carls past or him as an individual, but he as a replacement of Elises character Carl does an outstanding job.

The returning cast as a whole did as just well if not better than they did in the previous film. With special mentions going to Patrick Wilson, Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson. Whannell and Sampson while again minor characters were once again a delight to watch and would be the chief reason for me to revisit this film. I’m interested in seeing the Chapter 3 which is slated for 2015 as it won’t be focusing on Lamberts and the returning characters will be Specs, Tucker and Elise.

But with the good invariably comes the bad. The story of Parker Crane is incredibly generic, as it feels dated, borrowing too much from older and better films such as Psycho. I’ve grown very tired of the gender confused mothers boy killer archetype that always seems to crop up and that’s even when they are done well. The twist that the woman in black that’s been haunting Josh since was a boy was in fact a man the whole time seemed very weak and could have been handled better. The torment Parker Crane suffered does nothing to cast him in a sympathetic light for me, if anything makes me feel less for the character.

Another gripe I have which is oddly my biggest one was that the corpses of Cranes victims were incredibly well-preserved for having been left out for TWENTY FIVE plus years. Also the sheer number of bodies would have created such a stench that their discovery should have happened far sooner. Embalmed or not, insects and rodents would have eaten away the corpses of his victims so finding them in a near perfect state was a real stretch from my suspension of disbelief. While an interesting idea the house would have need to be far more secluded as empty homes like that would  have be vandalized by either teenagers, drug addicts or the homeless before the events of Insidious films.

But a very close second is how the ghost of Parker Crane’s mother is defeated. So once again SPOILER, how do you kill a ghost with a ghost rocking horse? She’s already dead and in the spirit world for that matter, so the idea that the ghost can bludgeoned to death is very aggravating. Couldn’t she have been forced to move on to whatever place lies beyond the Further or some physical thing that here essence is tied to be destroyed instead? Elise claimed she came from a place beyond the Further and it was a good place. So conversely, would there could easily be a bad place, so she could have been forced there maybe? Nope just beat the ghost to death with a rocking horse, problem solved.

Now final thoughts and that’s that, I liked it. For its notable few drawbacks and cliches I feel that this is a great addition to and conclusion to the Lamberts story. The acting, writing and pacing are better than the first time around so I can’t see any real faults beyond those mentioned, well almost. The ending does leave a bit sore for reasons mentioned in my review of Insidious but since this is an addition to that story I came in accepting that issue would be still be there. But overall it was very well done, Insidious: Chapter 2 gets an improved score of 7/1o. Also the Panasonic being worn down on the VCR to read panic was a nice touch.

Insidious

Insidious-PosterInsidious is an American Horror film written by Leigh Whannell and directed by James Wan, the same pair that brought us Saw and Dead Silence among others. As a fan of Dead Silence I was excited to see this film when it first came out and it was really hyped by friends who had seen it before me. Now before I go further I do want to state that I do recommend this film to fans of ghost/possession films as it’s well done. However Insidious just doesn’t really do it for me. I know I should like, but I just don’t. I feel it suffers from a couple of issues, mainly being over hyped by my friends. So I was expecting much more from Insidious than what it delivered.

Insidious focus on a family who, after moving into a new home, the eldest son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) falls into a mysterious coma. Dalton’s parents Renai (Rose Byrne) and Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) are unable to wake him and after the doctors are unable to find a reason behind his condition, Josh and Renai move Dalton back into their home. Slowly Renai starts to feel something is wrong and starts seeing ghosts and have nightmares. After finding a bloody hand print on Dalton’s sheets Renai convinces Josh that the house is haunted and the family moves into a new home. At the new home the haunting continues leading to a visit from Josh’s mother Lorraine (Barbara Hershey). Who tells Josh and his family the truth behind the haunting as it’s connected to not the house but to Dalton. Lorraine contacts her friend Elise Reiner (Lin Shaye) and her paranormal team to aid the family as she did when Josh was a child. It’s relieved that Josh and Dalton have the ability to astral project. While in astral form Dalton has been led out into the Further and has become trapped, leaving his body empty causing his coma like state. The longer he remains in the Further the weaker his connection becomes, leading to it being able to be possessed by the demon and ghosts the are haunting the family. After being Elise is unable to rescue Dalton, she awakens Josh’s suppressed abilities and he ventures into the Further himself to save his son before his body become possessed.

Most the casting is simply top-notch, with the principle cast doing an outstanding job. The best work I would have to say is a tie between Patrick Wilson and Lin Shaye. I’ve been a fan of Patrick Wilson since I saw him Phantom of Opera, but that’s a topic for another place. He does a solid job throughout the film and carries the last part of the film and while Lin Shaye’s character doesn’t show up until the later acts, she has a great screen presence while not pulling focus. Another great pair are Elise’s assistants played by Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson. The two played off one another well, adding both comedic effect and tension.

I find the first half to almost two-thirds of the film to be a bit slow for my tastes. But once Elise and her team show up the film really starts to build momentum. The Further is some of the best cinematography in the movie, which is saying a lot as the film is very strong in that department through-out. The Further is a dark place full of creepy visuals, haunting atmosphere and incredible use of shadow and light.

Now my big issue, my real gripe with Insidious is very simple and most people I mention it never seem to notice and that’s Lorraine. She explains she locked away Josh’s memories and abilities with aid Elise when he was a child to protect him from being possessed by the ghost of a woman. Now yes that makes sense, a lot in fact except for one little tiny thing. She also states Josh’s father also had the ability, which tells me that it’s hereditary. So why did she never bring it up after Josh had kids? Especially two sons?? She knew that there was a very strong chance they both or at least one of them would also inherit his gift. So what would have happened had she died or they had moved into a different state then her? Why not lock away his abilities and not his memories or tell them sooner and introduce them Elise before these issues had arisen?

So final thoughts. While I do recommend this film, I don’t really care for it. Yes it’s well acted with great atmosphere, I just can’t get over Lorraine’s character and the pacing in the earlier parts of the film. Also I expected much more out of it, for Insidious to approach the possession story from a different angle, but instead I got the same rehash of what I feel I’ve seen before. The man still believes in white science and women have to convince him of the spirit world. Elise’s character is the same medium in every other possession film even if I do enjoy her version more than others. The only difference I felt was in that rather than a woman being possessed this time around it was a little boy. So while good Insidious does little to change-up the possession formula garnering a low score of 5/10. Again I would recommend this film to others who tastes might be less picky than mine.