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Dead Silence was not a good film, but its the first film where I realized what James Wan was trying to do. He just hadn’t figured out some things yet. Its the first film where I realized what his influences were, and they were solid. Its the first time I realized that he was a student of horror film.

Dead Silence had some great sound mixing and heavy doses of Mario Bava, especially from his anthology segment ‘A Drop of Water,’ (and a wasted intense performance from Judith Roberts, who was unjustly underwritten). There was potential there.

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Insidious is the film where he got it mostly right. I have said it before, but Insidious is a low budget remake of Tobe Hooper/Steven Spielberg’s Poltergeist. Only two things keep Insidious from being more potent, they ran out of money right at the ambitious ending, and they are not particularly interested in their protagonists, which is a forgivable sin in a horror movie.

In Poltergeist, a nice suburban family deals with inexplicable phenomena that centers around their small child, who gets pulled into another dimension. After a team of parapsychologists come to help, they realize that the house has multiple spirits that exist in another dimension and are battling over the child’s lifeforce, and that, even worse, there is another presence, ‘The Beast,’ that has come into play and is focused on the child. The family then has to rescue their child.

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In Insidious, a nice suburban family deals with inexplicable phenomena that centers around their small child, who gets pulled into another dimension called ‘the Further.’ After a team of parapsychologists come to help, they realize that the house has multiple spirits that exist in another dimension and are battling over the child’s lifeforce, and that even worse there is another presence that has come into play and is focused on the child. The family then has to rescue their child.

I am not exaggerating or joking on the above descriptions.

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Its just that when you watch Poltergeist as an adult, (and if you’re able to strip away nostalgia) its a lousy movie, more of an action film with setpieces than anything that’s actually scary.

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Up until they enter ‘The Further,’ and the money runs out Insidious is single-mindedly trying to shave years off of your life. I’ve heard people use the term ‘cheap scares’ when talking about this kind of cinema, but every movie can’t be a slow burn type of film. Insidious is a fast-paced thrill ride done right, and an under-appreciated film.

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