Insight is an atmospheric supernatural thriller starring Sean Patrick Flanery that hits theaters in a limited released on September 2nd. While the film does establish and maintain an effective atmosphere, it suffers from a plodding pace and clichéd storyline.
Given the budget, it’s a wonder Insight managed to do what it did. There isn’t that made-for-TV feel you sometimes get with low-budget genre film. There is some decent atmosphere here and an interesting film noir vibe, accented by moody lighting and some anachronistic costuming.
What Insight suffered from was a slow pace that eventually began to bore. And though filled with twists and turns, the clichéd story is one that audiences (particularly those who enjoy genre film) have seen a hundred times. I should add that I felt very little investment in the main character, which in this case pointed less to faulty character development and more to the pedestrian story and pedantic scene choices.
The story revolves around a nurse named Kaitlyn (Natalie Zea), who begins to see memories through someone else’s eyes after an accident with a defibrillator. After stab-victim Allison comes into the emergency room, Kaitlyn gets in the way of the defibrillator and gets a jolt that changes everything in her life.
When she wakes up from the shock, she starts to see visions and realizes that she is seeing Allison’s memories. Using this new insight, she decides to help solve the young woman’s murder, eventually teaming up with a hard boiled detective named Peter Rafferty (Flanery).
Kaitlyn is beset by obstacles, from her chronically ill mother to the fact that no one will believe her. As the visions intensify, Kaitlyn begins going through the last few days of Allison’s life to solve the mystery of her death.
The elements that worked in Insight mainly had to do with atmosphere. The splicing and editing of the vision scenes were at times jarring, but worked well to build tension. The lighting was also appropriately dark and shadowy, many night scenes lit with a dim ruddy or dirty yellow glow that went far to aid the story and increase the film noir vibe.
Flanery’s detective was convincing enough, and since we’ve seen Flanery dispensing justice in previous films, it wasn’t hard to accept him as flatfoot. Unfortunately, some of the low lighting and camera angles did no favors for his face.
His performance was understated, but it towered over co-star Zea’s histrionic Kaitlyn. While she started off with an appropriate range of emotions, Zea very soon went over the top, indulging in overly emotional and aggressive delivery of lines for no apparent reason.
An interesting character came in the form of Detective Rafferty’s partner, Detective Canto. Played with some interesting quirk by Max Perlich, this character’s ‘40s-era film noir detective garb seemed strangely out of place in the modern context of the film, but it increased the film noir vibe despite being jarringly anachronistic.
Christopher Lloyd, Juliet Landau and Adam Baldwin also had small roles, with Lloyd’s creepy neighbor standing out. He has a great eccentricity that suited this role to perfection, and his small part was memorable.
Landau played a doctor competently enough, and Baldwin underwhelmed with his bloated psychiatrist. His one-note performance had me wondering where his acting ability has gone, considering he was so compelling and funny as a man called Jayne in the Firefly series.
Richard Gabai’s directing, while establishing some atmosphere and a modicum of tension, lost plenty of ground when it came to actually keeping audience attention engaged. The film began to drag after the first act, and the scenes began to string together pedantically.
Some of the blame must fall on the script and character development, as after the initial set up the film I simply lost interest/sympathy in the main character, and began to be bored with the movie. I found the romance between Kaitlyn and Detective Rafferty unnecessary and contrived. And the one sex scene in the film was surprisingly uninspired and boring given Gabai’s history with erotic thrillers. It came across as trying too hard to be stylized, and ended up sporting bad lighting and choppy editing.
This film might be ok for a slow night, but the lack of thrills and pedestrian story and pacing leave it firmly in the realm of mediocrity. As far as supernatural thrillers go, it has fairly good atmosphere but is too clichéd to stand out from the crowd. Still, if you are a fan of tried and true “seeing through other people’s eyes” supernatural storylines or The Boondock Saints’ Sean Patrick Flanery, I would suggest giving it a watch.
Tired story and pacing issues turn this into just another generic supernatural thriller.