By Agata Dojan (The University of Gdansk, Poland, Gdansk)
The Outstanding Modern Examples in Horror Movie Industry
Insidious and Insidious: Chapter 2 prove to be good horror movies which are both, commercially entertaining as well as thought provoking and memorable.
1. Fear Factors – Music / Sound Effects
Before analyzing the music in both movies, it is crucial to mention that it was composed by Joseph Bishara who also appears in the movie as the red-faced demon. The music was composed with a quartet and the piano, and many parts were improvised and constructed in the editing process. There were also some music samples that had been produced before filming, for instance the introductory part of the movie (with the big red title). The director, James Wan, once stated:
“We wanted a lot of the scare sequences to play really silent. But, what I like to do with the soundtrack is set you on edge with a really loud, sort of like, atonal scratchy violin score, mixing with some really weird piano bangs and take that away and all of a sudden, you’re like, ‘What just happened there?'”
In the movies there are non-diegetic sounds (also called as commentary sound) which means that their source comes outside story space (these are not the sounds produced within the limits of the fictional reality). However, when it comes to diegetic sounds (the ones whose source are implied to be present by the action of the film, inside the fictional reality) are pretty scary too – unexpected sound of closing doors, strange and happy tune, “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” by Tiny Tim from 1968, mysteriously played by phonograph and the cracking sound of the monster’s fingers (the one who kidnapped Dalton’s spiritual body), and many many more. These sounds brilliantly correspond to the overall sense of ambiguity, puzzle, anxiety and fear, and are very hard to forget long after watching the movie. Moreover, what is additionally worth analyzing is the way the music / the sound effects are incorporated within the fictional reality. In the introductory part, there is a black screen and the sound effect which is similar to a human’s breath. The sound is almost muted and given the reverberative effect it vanishes into the black screen.
The moment of a brief silence is interrupted by the sudden loud music sample consisting of crazy sharp violins playing extremely fast and high. It is rather uncommon to start a movie with such an aggressive splash of sounds. The audience is not prepared for this kind of unconventional beginning and this is one of the elements that makes the movie so different from the others horror movies in the industry. Another significant technique in terms of film score is introducing the sounds not in a simultaneous way.
There are many instances when the sound is prior to the scene and in another situation the sound appears one second after the dreadful image. The aim of such a technique it to lengthen the moment of terror in the audience. Both movies start and end with the similar techniques introduce music and other sound effects in an even manner. Apart from being cohesive in the terms of aesthetics, both, Insidious and Insidious: Chapter 2 are evenly full of suspense, terror, as well as amusement.
2. Fear Factors – Innovative use of Jump scares and the Dreadful Power of the Plot
When it comes to the movies Insidious and Insidious: Chapter 2 they are the outstanding types of horror genre. Like other horrors they also involve so-called jump scares but its use is very innovative as well as untypical. The main aim of many horrors is to scare the audience by the exaggerated use of jump scares which purpose is to “jump out” a watcher of his/her seat as it is mentioned above. Apparently, Insidious and Insidious: Chapter 2 prove that by inducing calm and peaceful atmosphere can also cause fear and even more anxiety. In the movie there are many scenes that use this innovative technique of scaring the audience but there are two particular scenes which demonstrate these tricks the most.
The first scene presents the main character (the mother in this case) doing the housework. While watching this part a watcher is following the camera which is positioned on the mother’s back. One can feel as if he/she is taking a part of that scene. The scope of the watcher’ sight is even broader than of the character therefore the mother omits some details but does not the watcher. In addition to this, he/she is able to notice almost everything. So that the watcher sees the figure of a boy standing in front of the white wall. The uniqueness of that jump scare evokes the feeling of anxiety and consternation. The audience do not jump out of their sets but still noticing a mysterious boy standing with his face stick to the wall is disturbing and unforgettable and thought provoking happening which may petrify everybody.
The second scene concentrates on the mother-in-law referring her nightmare. Again, the camera is mobile and now is positioned on the face of the character. The audience is diving into her dream and sees everything what Lorraine is talking about, i.e. dark room, the demon etc. There is no sound, only her calm and melodic voice is spreading around the room. The audience feel comfortable and do not expect something fearful to happen. Their consciousness is asleep. The camera is moving slowly toward her face, is closer and closer and eventually at the time of her saying: “I can still hear that voice”, there is an extremely disturbing crackling sound of the monster’s fingers, and the camera moves toward her son seating on her right side, and behind him the audience can observe the sudden appearance of the red demon causing the crackling sound. And again, the watchers are tricked. They can feel confused and anxious.
When it comes to the plot, many horror movies are dreadful just because of the special effects which include terrifying music, lightning, graphic effects or the appearance of supernatural forces. The power of the movies Insidious and Insidious: Chapter 2 lies in the plot itself. The other effects stand for only the addition to the whole. The history introduced in the production is really dreadful and shocking. It is devoted to a despotic and deviant mother who raises her son to be a girl. Dressing him in girlish clothes. Consequently, the son becomes a serial killer in wedding dress who murders various women. The idea of two parts of the movie is ingenious. They both interpenetrate each other. One part cannot exist without the other. They complement each other. What is unclear or incomprehensible in Insidious is explained in Insidious: Chapter 2.
All in all, Insidious and Insidious 2 differ from typical commercial horror movies.
Firstly, the picture includes various genres such as horror, psychological thriller as well as science fiction. The plot is not linear; there are lots of flashbacks and rapid twists in the course of the events. There is action, puzzle and spontaneity which attract the audience even more. At the same time, the plot is not complex and hard to follow. The storyline is extremely interesting and narcotic which is thanks to the mentioned rapidity, speed and movement. Secondly, the use of music score and sound effects is also rather innovative when comparing to other horror movies. The diegetic music corresponds to the spooky tone of the movie, accompanies every and each step of the characters, whereas non-diegetic music maintains the sense of suspense and dread, surprises the viewers with its lack of melody and with the tremendous use of sharp, disturbing samples. Thirdly, what also makes the movies stand out in “the crowd full of banal horror films” is the fact that the viewers are not only scared by the “tiny” jump scare occurrences, which pop out rapidly, but also by the storyline itself.
Only after watching the second part, the truth behind the supernaturality in the haunted house is revealed. And this truth is remarkably dreadful, confusing as well as disturbing – discovering that the tormented soul that haunts the boy and his father is no one else than the former patient who experienced female upbringing in an extremely abusive manner, who apparently is told by the soul of his mother to kill other people as well as Josh’s family to get allowance to a living body). A little bit shocking, isn’t it?
And finally when the audience is tricked into the state of closure, the ending indicates that there is more to be presented. That will be quite a challenge for the director, the producers and any other staff members to maintain the greatness of the former movie in means of the plot, techniques and the sense of suspense and dread. However, the films have certainly raised people’s interest in such twisting movies and in various interviews and surveys the viewers declared their desire to see the third part even more.