Yesterday, my partner and I went to see two movies at our local theater. It had been months since our last real day off together, and so we wanted to make the most of it. We went and saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi (which needs no introduction), and Insidious: The Last Key. I’ve never been much of a horror film fanatic, but my partner NJ loves them, so we decided to watch the latest installment of the Insidious franchise at the theater.
There was something I noticed immediately when I sat down in my seat for Insidious (despite the fact that I had lost my wallet at the first movie…): the other moviegoers were talking.
It was an interesting experience—at Star Wars, the social expectations were to be silent. To keep the tension of the cinematic experience palpable. To forget you were in a theater and be transported to a world of spaceships and Jedi and floating rocks (inside joke).
But in the theater for Insidious, the expectations were really different. No one seemed to mind that people around them were laughing and involving the rest of the theater patrons in the experience. It felt more like the line up to a roller coaster at a theme park than the credits before a feature film.
During Insidious, there were a few times when the whole crowd jumped simultaneously, when NJ’s nails bit into my arm or thigh, or when a particularly jumpy girl shrieked and cut the tension so quickly that the entire audience broke into laughter. It was a group experience, rather than a singular one.
It made me think about how a horror film like Insidious is not trying to do the same things that a film like Star Wars or Jumanji is trying to do. Insidious is a horror film, so naturally the producers are looking to get a few good scares out of their audience, while Jumanji is probably more about getting viewers to laugh at a few key jokes or gags. Star Wars‘s producers are probably hoping more people remember a few key scenes or characters—they are all looking for what lingers, but none of them are trying to be all things at once.
As a writer, it was a good reminder: not every story has to be all things, but it’s a good idea to know what a story’s goals for the reader are when you’re starting out. If you’re writing a story that is supposed to make people cry or feel pain for a character, it’s probably a good idea to not cut the tension too much with side plot or humor (my only real complaint with Thor: Ragnarok, which was amazing in every other aspect, was that there was so little tension that it was hard to feel anything for a few key characters at their black points.)
Have any of you seen any good movies recently (and are there any you’re looking forward to seeing)? What did you like about them? (Feel free to go spoiler crazy for Star Wars: The Last Jedi in the comment section!)
My most-anticipated 2018 film (besides Marvel franchise releases) is Downsizing, which looks like it will just be a really fun movie: