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Films I Neglected To Review: Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark

By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 06/08/15 11:58:51

Please enjoy short reviews of "Blind," "Insidious: Chapter 3" and "The Nightmare."

If you are looking the kind of mind-bending moviegoing experience that will challenge and perplex you in ways wholly different from that of the typical multiplex offerings, the twisty and twisted Norwegian import "Blind" is the film for you. In it, former schoolteacher Ingrid (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) who has recent gone blind due to a genetic condition, spends her days puttering around her sleek high-tech apartment by herself, though she is convinced that her husband occasionally slips back in after leaving for work in order quietly spy on her. It eventually appears that Ingrid is passing the time by constructing a fictional narrative in her mind (where she can still see) involving the emerging romance between a single mother and a shy porn addict and the lines between truth and fiction become irrevocably blurred when she sticks her husband into the narrative. . . or does she?

"Blind" constantly flits between what is real and what isn't to such a degree that nothing is at it seems (even the backgrounds change from time to time as Ingrid mess around with how she sees the story and in lesser hands, it could have run the risk of just being an exercise in pseudo-Charlie Kaufman weirdness. Luckily, writer-director Eskil Vogt (making his directorial debut her after a couple of collaborations with Joachim Trier) with a storyline that is always inventive and intriguing, a striking visual style, a droll sense of humor and an impressive central performance by Petersen that keeps the story firmly grounded even when it threatens to fly off into pure surrealism. Granted, the film's refusal to explain itself may put off some viewers while others may be taken aback by some of the sexually explicit material on display (including an extended medley of pornographic imagery that will raise many an eyebrow) but if you are looking for a movie to see that will have you talking about more after the screening than where you want to go for dinner, "Blind" should be right up your alley.

As unnecessary horror films go, "Insidious: Chapter 3" is better than that shitty "Poltergeist" remake and. . .well, I frankly don't have much of anything else. Rather than continue the narrative that began with the surprisingly effective "Insidious" (2010) and continued with the startlingly useless "Insidious: Chapter 2" (2013)--possibly because Rose Byrne has found better things to do with her time than shriek at the drop of a hat--writer-director Leigh Wannell (who wrote the previous installments and who makes his directorial debut here) goes the largely unrelated prequel route to bring in another imperiled family for adorable ghostbuster Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) to save. This time around, teenager Quinn (Stefanie Scott) attempts to contact the other side in order to hear from her beloved late mother but, in news that will no doubt shock most of you, it all goes sideways as she first suffers a number of nasty injuries and spirit attacks before finally becoming possessed by a nasty ghost that haunts the funky apartment building where she lives with her befuddled father (Dermot Mulroney) and little brother. At wits end, Dad contacts Elsie and goofy paranormal experts Tucker & Specs (Angus Sampson and Whannell, repeating their characters from the previous episodes) and do battle with said spirit with Quinn's life in the balance.

To give "Insidious: Chapter 3" a little bit of credit, it is certainly a step up from the incredibly dire previous installment and Whannell is able to deliver a couple of decently timed shocks, albeit of the most crashingly obvious "BOO!" variety. In addition, it is nice to see perennial supporting player and fan favorite Lin Shaye get a chance at a bigger role than she is used to inhabiting.The problem is that it just doesn't amount to anything after a while--our heroine is sweet and charming, her father is bumbling but well-meaning but at no point do the actors manage to infuse them with enough life and energy to make viewers care about them in the slightest. Worse yet, the scare scenes are never particularly frightening or suspenseful and are shot in such darkness that it becomes difficult at times to have any idea of what is going on and not in the good way. If you are in the mood for a good, challenging and genuinely scary horror film, look and see if the powerful "It Follows" is still playing in your area and if it is, catch that one right this instant. As for "Insidious: Chapter 3," it is slightly better than most of the recent spate of horror sequels, remakes and reimaginings of late but my guess is that it will have all evaporated from your mind by the time you wake up the next morning.

Filmmaker Rodney Ascher caused quite a stir a couple of years ago with "Room 237," an electrifying documentary in which a group of disparate people looked at a single shared nightmare--Stanley Kubrick's landmark film version of Stephen King's "The Shining"--and offered up a number of deeply felt interpretations about what it was really about with theories ranging from the Native American genocide to Kubrick's alleged involvement with helping NASA to allegedly fake the moon landing. With his latest effort, "The Nightmare," he shifts the focus slightly in order to interview eight different people from the U.S. and England who suffer from sleep paralysis and show through reenactments how the nightmares that these people endure whenever they close their eyes are remarkably similar in all the key details. In theory, it sounds interesting but the problem is that since the details of the nightmares and their recreations are all pretty much similar in structure and tone, a certain monotony begins to set in after a while and without the presence of any objective explanation of sleep paralysis and its effects to help orient viewers not familiar with the malady, many viewers will find it a challenge to sit through even though it clocks in at a not-particularly-epic 90-odd minutes. Ascher does have skills as a filmmaker and I am curious to see what he does next but here is hoping that his next projects force him a little further out of his comfort zone than he ever gets here.

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