Insidious Inferno

Film review by Thomas M. Sipos




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Insidious Inferno (2023, director & scp: Calvin Morie McCarthy cast: Stephanie Leet, Neil Green, Chynna Rae Shurts, Marcella Laasch, Steve Larkin, Erik Skybak)





It's a customary (and shady) practice to deceptively title horror films so as to imply that they're part of a popular franchise. Calvin Morie McCarthy is making a career of this. His oeuvre includes An Amitiville Poltergeist, Conjuring The Beyond, and now, Insidious Inferno, which is not in any way related to the Insidious franchise or to Argento's Inferno.

Insidious Inferno is an arbitrary title. It could as easily have been called Evil Portal, or Sinister Forest, or Dark Cabin, or anything. But those titles don't hint at a popular horror franchise. Actually, it's a shame McCarthy didn't choose a distinctive title, because Insidious Inferno is quite good, despite its hackneyed setup of an urban couple in a lonely cabin in the woods.

Monica (Stephanie Leet) inherited the house from her dad. She hates the house and wants to sell it ASAP. But the house is in poor condition and needs repairs before a realtor will touch it. Monica's hubby, Andre (Neil Green), regards himself a handy fixer-upper, and insists they not waste money on professionals. He can do the repairs himself.

Monica is also wracked with guilt and resentment about her dad. Well, she says she hated him and is glad he's dead. Which is unfortunate, because the house sits on or near one of the seven gates to Hell, and this gate has released an "evil" that taps into Monica's turbulent emotions and pushes her over the edge.

If that "gates to Hell" concept sound a bit Lucio Fulci, it's intentional. Although Insidious Inferno has nothing to do with the Insidious franchise, McCarthy borrows heavily from Fulci's "Gates of Hell trilogy," especially The Beyond. His mysterious blind girl, Mary (Chynna Rae Shurts), looks a lot like the blind Emily (Cinzia Monreale) in The Beyond (multiple people go blinds in both films when touched by the evil beyond the gates.) Mary also says, "We cannot stop the forces that dwell beyond from influencing Monica." And the film's poster proclaims: "The Gates of Hell Are Open!"

Compare Mary from Insidious Inferno (top) with Emily in The Beyond (bottom).


So Insidious Inferno evokes neither Insidious or Inferno, but instead rips off The Beyond. Which again, appears to be McCarthy's M.O. While his Conjuring The Beyond has nothing to do with either the Conjuring franchise or Fulci's The Beyond, it borrows heavily from The Haunting, with nods to Bride of Frankenstein and Shadowzone.

But as ripoffs in low budget horror filmmaking are commonplace, I'll forgive McCarty because his B movie copycats are so enjoyable. Really, the only thing that sets McCarthy apart is that he signals his "influences" so explicitly.

Leet gives an extraordinary performance as a nice but troubled woman whose suppressed anger erupts into madness. Green is less effective as her hubby. Early on, he comes across as goofy and jokey. But as Andre (his character) says he wants to inject "levity" into their predicament, I assume his jokeyness was a choice (either Green's or McCarthy's). A poor choice; it didn't work for me.

Andre is also poorly written in that, when he first meets Mary, blind, barefoot and babbling in the forest, he thinks nothing of it. It's only when he meets her the second time that he remarks on the oddity of her presence, exclaiming "What are you even doing here?"

Andre should have been surprised the first time.

Green's performance does improve in the film's second half.

I also wonder what year we're in. Andre calls a colleague (Marcella Laasch) on a GTE pay phone. She talks to him over her landline phone. Andrea asks her to "Stay near your phone," in case he needs to call again. Don't either of them have cell phones? I'm guessing that McCarthy is trying to place us in Fulci's universe, but if this is a period piece, I don't recall being informed at the start.



Like Fulci's work, Insidious Inferno relies more on imagery than logic. McCarthy also acted as cinematographer, and he makes captivating, if unoriginal, use of the nondiegetic colored lights popularized by Argento.

The sound design is admirable and effective. Ominous bass tones unify the film, signifying dark undercurrents flowing from scene to scene, waiting to explode. I wish I knew whom to credit. The film credits Kai Pacifico Eng for "sound mixer/boom operator" and the IMDB credits him for "sound," so I assume he did the sound design. No other sound person in any capacity is credited.

The makeup effects are a mixed bag. The monsters are nicely done, jittering in that fashion invented by Jacob's Ladder. Monica's murder of the realtor (Erik Skybak) is less effective. The hammer bounces off his forehead (clearly a foam or rubber hammer). The blood pooling under his head is also unrealistic.

I was bothered by the direction of the police doing their welfare check. If they suspected trouble afoot, would they have parked beside the house, with the front door out of their range of view? And I think they drew their guns too quickly. But I suppose that filmmakers think drawn guns are more exciting than leaving them holstered.

Ultimately, Insidious Inferno is an homage to Lucio Fulci. Not too original, but well crafted and entertaining.



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