Sleep is becoming one of the crisis points of late modernity, as the steady encroachment of the “24/7” plugged-in world only intensifies sleep’s already uncanny nature.[i] To sleep is to slip into a realm of darkness, irrationality, and the supernatural, a realm that is not only profoundly opposed to the contemporary illuminated world but that has always lain uncomfortably close to death. Indeed, the Western way of sleeping has been described as a “lie down and die” model.[ii] To walk or talk while sleeping, in particular, is to act in ways divorced from the world of light and reason, to act without volition and the consent of the mind. The body that acts becomes something other than the person it appears to be, producing uncanny doubles and evoking the profoundly uncanny uncertainty as to whether, as philosopher Dylan Trigg puts it, “‘I’ am truly identifiable with my body itself.”[iii] Horror films in the twenty-first century in particular have turned to sleep to exploit its inherent uncanniness and the way it suggests that we are not always in control of who we are and what we do.
The horror film is notoriously white, which is why I’m writing this in great anticipation of the release on Friday February 24 of Jordan Peele’s Get Out–a serious horror film that directly confronts racial difference and division. Peele has said that the idea for his film initially came to him during the 2008 Democratic primary and that, over the years, he became more and more convinced that “especially after Obama’s election . . . the U.S. was ‘living in this postracial lie.’” Peele’s target in Get Out, he says, is “the liberal elite,” who tend to believe they are above—past—racism.[i]
The release of Peele’s film, which takes aim at the idea that we are “postracial,” joins the recent publication of Michael Tesler’s book, Post-Racial or Most-Racial?, about the increasing racialization of the US during the course of Barack Obama’s presidency. Tesler points out that before Obama’s election in 2008, “race-based and race-evoking issues” were “largely receding from the national political scene.” Obama’s two terms as president, however, have ushered in what Tesler calls “a ‘most-racial’ political era” in which Americans are more divided “over a whole host of political positions than they had been in modern times.”[ii]
If America has become still more profoundly divided by race over the course of the last nine years, it’s worth asking, where is the evidence of that divide in the horror film, a genre that has long been (rightly) declared to be adept at representing the social and cultural conflicts of its historical moment?
Insidious: Chapter 3 is the directorial debut of the talented Leigh Whannell, the screenwriter for Saw (2004), Dead Silence (2007), Insidious (2011), and Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013). Demonstrable proof that Whannell can direct as well as write (and act), Insidious 3 is quite different, and more disturbing, than the first two Insidious films. It’s telling that the tagline on the movie poster is “This is how you die,” because the film seems itself to be driving toward death, with little to lighten the mood. The mise-en-scène reflects the darkness of the film’s trajectory, exuding decay: while the first two films have a generally lighter, suburban mise-en-scène, the latest installment is set in an old, dark, urban apartment building, and centers on a family struggling both to make ends meet and to deal with the loss of a wife and mother. Read more
PG-13 | 97 min | 2015 | USA | Leigh Whannell
Review: Insidious 3 sheds light on darkness, depression, and disease.
Synopsis: A prequel to the series, this installment provides insight into Elise Rainier and the use of her abilities to help others. She teaches the audience about her talent and about The Further. When you call upon one person they all hear you…and when you go into the darkness, things come back with you.
Like the recent film, Unfriended this film places suicide as a main actor in the film.[i] In Unfriended the actions of others lead to the darkness that befell Laura Barnes which later justified the haunting of her assailants. However, Insidious delves deeper into the psyche by exposing the levels of despair like Dante’s nine circles of hell. Insidious illuminates depression, despair and despondency, and then sprinkles it with the uniquely horrific experience of losing a life to suicide or through disease. Both of these are often unexplainable ends which leave the living with unanswered questions that might push them to stick their head down the rabbit hole of depression. Each of the characters is touched by tragedy, sickness, and suicide. How they cope with such tragedy determines if they become a victim of the darkness.