Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
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This director's understanding of restraint pays off big time & keeps the film from becoming just another jumps scare James Wan type of forgettable — thankfully this never happens & The Wind is eerily difficult to shake from your mind even a few days go by.
The title is a far more appropriate description of how the thematic material of the plot was handled by the screenwriter/director, and tonally the film is a colossal mess. While there are some granular specs of meaning be found throughout the movie, it's hardly worth the effort. Even if you're a fan of films that are metaphorical trainwrecks, (ex: The Room), this one is far less deserving of your attention than other B-movie material.
INSIDIOUS perfectly represents the watered-down, mainstream, and shamelessly unremarkable genre fair that creators James Wan & Leigh Wannell have established in their co-dependent careers. I wish I could use this film's PG-13 rating as the main reason that the film pulled so many punches — but after a recent third viewing since I first saw this movie upon its 2011 release, I can strongly conclude that even if this had been made for a hard R-rating, there didn't seem to be ANY genuine creative opportunities in this story that would've allowed Wan & Wannell to make it remotely scary. Just last week I re-watched The Conjuring and — much like my reaction to even the modest critical praise this film somehow earned — am genuinely confused as to why The Conjuring was celebrated among critics & audiences alike. If these are the types of "horror" movies that almost all Hollywood studios are using as the template for the next 5-10 years of "scary movies", then I am far more terrified by the fact that ACTUAL CREATIVITY AND UNCONVENTIONAL FILMMAKING WITHIN THE HORROR GENRE IS BEING MURDERED BY THESE INSULTINGLY TAME JUMP-SCARE-SLOP THAN THE IMAGERY THESE FILMS LAZILY FLASH ON SCREEN WITH A LOUD NOISE. Box Office numbers is the only language that Executives speak, and if not for studios like A24 or legendary indie horror icons like Larry Fessenden, I'd say the genre was already dead — but thankfully A24 & Fessenden have kept it alive despite the efforts of James Wan...but any self-respecting Horror fan should be extremely concerned that this film is basically the new blueprint for major studio horror content. (Look no further than the endless amounts of awful Conjuring spin-offs that have been released as well as the recent "IT" adaptation, which is basically the equivalent of modulated horror built for Marvel audiences in a summer theatre who want to talk, munch popcorn, and stare at their phones half the movie and then spend weeks exclaiming how scary clowns are...excuse me while I vomit.)
As a psychedelic, (and extremely abridged), take on Dante's Divine Comedy "Inferno," you might need to take as many mushrooms as our main characters in order to connect those dots coherently; However, I recall the first time I saw this movie back in 2012 that there was something indescribably powerful captured somewhere in the chaos of the film's aggressive detachment from conventional narrative format, and upon recently re-watching it I think I was on to something.
This movie uses its modest budget, premise, and run time to construct more of a 1 act play that signals from its opening scenes — without ambiguity — where it is about to take us: a cavernous, anxiety-addled part of our minds that we don't like to even acknowledge the existence of. Or put simply, this movie only wants to remind you that even the most basic fundamental truths we assume are objective for everyone else on the planet, (ex: "the sky is, at least some times, the color blue"), may not be as universal or obvious as you've always believed. What is up for one person may be backwards for another, or perhaps not even another direction to anywhere, (you see how this gets very chaotic VERY quickly?)
When this film first came out 8 remember some detractors writing about how it's supposed to be "a cautionary tale in recreational drug use," and if that's what some critics thought Toad Road was saying then I'd agree with them with the notion that as a campaign for the war on drugs or whatever it doesn't come close to really getting that message across...BUT REDUCING ANY/ALL MEANING FROM THIS FILM INTO A "DON'T DO DRUGS" ADVERTISEMENT WOULD BE MISSING THE POINT BY A COUNTRY MILE. Toad Road wants us to glimpse, very briefly, at a simple reality that is true for everyone no matter who you are or where you come from: the reality that there are fates worse than death, and you don't have to be clinically insane or suffering from the effects of highly potent mind-altering substances. In fact, what hurts our anti-hero the most in the end *is NOT* the fact that he may go to prison for a crime he didn't commit, or that he doesn't understand how he got from point A to point B in the story — no! He's broken to the very core of his soul because HE MISSES THE ONLY PERSON IN HIS LIFE THAT UNDERSTOOD HIM AND CARED ABOUT HIM.
This is a very familiar story in every human civilization dating as far back as you can find, one about the indescribable mental agony that comes with losing someone you love, someone who loved you, and the brutal fact that what's done is done — even if you don't (and will never) fully understand where they went or why they are gone.