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January is a prime time for ghost movies

— by CRAIG SMITH —

“Insidious 5” was released on Jan. 5 to several thousand theatres across North America. Mainstream horror fans – made up of the audiences who flock to almost all of the horror movies that enjoy wide releases and then boo when they end – should be used to this. An entire generation has reached adulthood in a world where horror movies open up on the first weekend in January almost each year.

This date is becoming more reliable for these releases than Halloween, but, in the same way you couldn’t always access the real money fun of online casino NZ dollars, things have not always been this way.


Pre-2005, January was a barren landscape

Before 2005, January’s first weekend was a barren one, with only a few new releases extending over the previous two decades.

The film that changed the game appears to have been a now long-forgotten vehicle for Michael Keaton, “White Noise,” a modest movie in a year which saw the Saw series peaking.


An accidentally influential film

While there are not many who would applaud the quality of “White Noise,” there is an aspect of accidental influence that becomes apparent when one views at least 12 years of the early-January horror mill.

Though there are a few slashers, vampires or medieval witch movies, the majority, like this year’s “Insidious: The Last Key,” are full-on ghost stories and those based on superstition. They may not all be great films, but there is something immoderately satisfying about slipping out of the chill of a January winter into a film that offers you a different way to shiver.


Does Insidious: The Last Key rank well?

If one measures them by the early-year ghost-pictures-of-the-past, all the “Insidious” films are pretty good. The franchise in general, which was begun by the “Saw” duo of Leigh Whannell and James Wan, is a consistently well-crafted one, at least technically.

Whannel, who still writes and co-stars in the movies, may not think too much of his audience, a fact made obvious by his forcing his characters to indulge in explanations that are rather inelegant, but Adam Robitel, the director, is cut from another cloth.

Robitel wrings as much suspense as he can from the plotline, and Lin Shaye, the headliner for the film playing the part of Elise, a paranormal communicator, brings a commitment and warmth to the material that many genre actors are sorely lacking in.

As cynical as it may sound, studios seem more willing to experiment with the films set for an early January release, since their only aim is the fact that the movie is finished and ready to go when the holidays come to an end. With this leeway, however, maybe we can look forward to more adventurous horror flicks in the future?

The fifth “Insidious” installment is very much a sequel. It cannot match the surprise of the original, and, when it does manage to deploy a substantially smart twist, the filmmakers practically throw off what would be, in another horror movie, a lynchpin moment. It is worth a viewing, however, as it is on the same level of quality as its predecessors.

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