Lin Shaye and Liam Neeson | January Box Office Gold

Both Insidious and The Commuter are gems in the graveyard that is typically true “January” release films. I say true because films like The Shape of WaterI Tonya, and The Post are wide-released in January but were originally released on a limited run during the Holidays in order to qualify for The Oscars. For those who follow cinema closely, it’s no surprise that months like January and September are typically referred to as movie graveyard because that is ordinarily where movies go to die that cannot stand up to Spring, Summer, Fall, or Holiday release times. However, the last couple of years have seen some very strong films in January/February. Last year’s examples are Get OutLogan, and A Cure for Wellness. Last week’s Insidious: the Last Key and this week’s The Commuter are very much paint-by-the-numbers horror/action films respectively; but the cast–in particular, the leads–makes these films fun and even exciting to watch. From background actress to leading horror queen, Lin Shaye truly makes the Insidious films ones to be experienced on the big screen. Her flair for paranormal/supernatural films is uncanny, and take mediocre horror movies and transform them into movies you don’t want to wait until it comes to VOD. Likewise, Liam Neeson wowed audiences with his trademark character with a “particular set of skills” in the Taken movies, and has since played similar characters in other films. When you see his name, you expect that character-type and often times you get it! The Commuter may be a cliche action-thriller, but Neeson makes the film one that is a non-stop ride, one you don’t’ wanna miss when it leaves the station.

But why do both Shaye and Neeson draw the audiences the way they do? By all accounts, movies like the Insidious and Taken franchises or some iteration of the aforementioned are filled with horror and action tropes that seldom provide a truly new experience for audiences. However, their movies generally do very well at the box office and are consistently thrilling to watch. Placing Neeson in an action thriller or Shaye in a supernatural horror is essentially a guaranteed box office success for audiences and investors. In a manner of speaking, what we are dealing with here are legitimate movie stars. Truth be told, 21st-century cinema does not see movie stars in the same way that the early and mid 20th century did. In early days of cinema, films were built on the back of the studio system stars. It was a Betty Hutton film, a Humphrey Bogart movie, a William Holden picture, a Bette Davis film, etc. I’d argue that Tom Cruise is the closest to a contemporary era movie star in the traditional sense that we have. But by extension, you can apply the same attributes to Liam Neeson and  Lin Shaye by the cache that they bring to their films–they are a box office draw. Just their respective names are enough to invigorate audiences and generate ticket sales. At the end of the day, that’s when you know you have a true movie star. The name alone is enough to excite audiences and drive ticket sales.

Both actors are equally talented in their respective ways. The level of talent, entertainment, and thrill is consistent. You are never disappointed in their performances. If you remove/replace either of them in Insidious: the Last Key or The Commuter, the movies would likely not play out nearly half as well as they presently do. I’m not knocking the writing, directing, scores, editing, or cinematography, I am stating that the films are nothing remarkable in and of themselves; however, Shaye and Neeson bring a powerful screen presence with them that take the mediocre horror and action films to transform them into a cinematic experience that is incredibly enjoyable.

Insidious 3 (movie review)

Insidious3Ridiculous: Chapter 3. The final chapter in the Insidious trilogy takes us all the way back to the beginning. Only, you will find that the beginning is far less terrifying and interesting than the previous films in this story. The one saving grace the film has is the pretty interesting backstory to Elise (Lin Shaye) and her small team of paranormal hunters. We also get a couple references to the Josh Lambert case from the previous movies, and we learn a little more about the bride dressed in black that brought Elise to the Lamberts in the first place. Compared to the the original and, to a lesser extent, the sequel, the third movie is much less developed diegetically (narratively) and contains poor dialog. I have a feeling most of the fans of the series will be disappointed by this installment. It is very apparent that James Wan did not have much to do with the final chapter in the series he created. For what it’s worth, the movie does have its moments of terror and cliche jump scares. As with many horror films, it’s still a fun one to watch with friends or on a date…most likely you’ll be able to put your arm around your movie date. So, there’s the silver lining.

Insidious Chapter 3 is the final movie in the Insidious trilogy. Follow Elise (Shaye) all the way back the beginning to a case involving a young lady named Quinn (Stafanie Scott) who recently lost her mother. Upon trying to contact her mother, Quinn feels she may have awaken something far more insidious (yeah, I went there, haha). Arriving without notice on the doorstep of Elise’s house, Quinn seeks her assistant in contacting her mother. Unlike the Elise from the previous movies, this one is scared to step back into the supernatural world and tells Quinn she cannot help her to the extent Quinn wants. Following continued terrifying events and malevolent appearances of evil entities, Quinn’s father (Dermont Mulroney) reluctantly contacts web-famous paranormal hunters (Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson). Realizing that the entity that haunts Quinn is way beyond their expertise, all seems lost. But, Elise confidently arrives to save the day. Now, Elise must go into the further to conquer the evil that so desperately wants to claim the life of Quinn; but not only will she face the demon that wants Quinn, Elise must also confront her fears as well.

While my hopes for this film weren’t terribly high, I was definitely hoping for something better than what I saw. Although the sequel to Insidious was strong for a horror sequel, neither the second nor–definitely–the third are on par with the original. I know, I know, that is not uncommon in the horror genre, but there was such an opportunity to truly develop the events leading up to the Lambert case from parts 1 and 2. Now, we do get some character and subplot development in regards to the character of Elise, but that’s about it. The paranormal case of Quinn is not nearly as terrifying as the Lambert case and is not nearly as well executed. Often writing suffers in cliche horror films–such as this one–but the writing for most of the dialog was so incredibly poor that is was nearly laughable. Once the movie was over, it was as if everyone in the audience asked themselves “is that it?” And–spoiler alert–we get an almost comedic glimpse of the “Darth Maul” demon from the first movie.

Some of the few positive notes regarding the movie is the fact we do get to learn more about Elise’s character and her ragtag team of paranormal hunters. So, that was pretty cool and somewhat interesting. Although not directly explained, there is evidence to suggest why the bride dressed in black hates Elise so much, and kills her in the first movie. Unlike the first two movies, there is very little emotional investment or attachment to any of the characters with the exception of Elsie. Even in the first movie, her character is often considered the favorite in the films. That is most likely do to her good looks–for an older actress, confidence, compassion, and courage. And, in this movie, she has a great single line that prompts everyone to clap and cheer. You’ll just have to watch it to find out. Despite the terrifying nature of the movie, there are come minor comedic relief parts–ones that were intentional.

For me, the best part of watching this movie was the sneak peek into Jurassic World during the previews. So, if you are a fan of the Jurassic Park series, you may want to see Insidious 3 just for the exclusive look into next week’s box office smash hit! For fans of horror movies, you will probably enjoy this film even though it simply did not live up to the low bar of expectations.

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