'Source Code' is a wild, enjoyable ride

What makes "Source Code" engrossing entertainment is the necessity to sort out all the disparate pieces of an intricate puzzle.

The premise is familiar: time is a Mobius strip, meaning a narrow ribbon that is twisted 180 degrees and connected at the ends. The idea is that no matter where you are on the strip you can leap across to another place thus traveling through time, either into the future or into the past.

This is such an endlessly interesting idea, time travel, the one consistency being that all of life, past present and future, is being lived simultaneously, hence the endless permutations, the details deliciously convoluted and all but impenetrable.

Plus there's the standard trope that if you arrive in the past from the future and you change one thing (the ultimate do-over), the ripples of that change will alter all that comes after, meaning the future you left is no longer the future to which you will return and so on.

"The Source Code" involves time travel, but with a nicely constructed twist. It's fascinating from the first frame.

Briefly, a helicopter pilot, Capt. Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal), flying sorties in Afghanistan, finds himself on a commuter train heading toward Chicago, seated across from a lovely young woman, Christina Warren (Michele Monaghan). And then, abruptly, he's in the wrecked cockpit of his chopper being told that he has been assigned a mission that is of the greatest urgency and involves the train. He has eight minutes to work the problem or the train will explode. Enter the Mobius strip.

Because "Source Code" is so intensely unique, it's all but essential to see it fresh, with as little information as possible (even the trailer is too blatant). But know that this is a nifty movie, asking the audience to pay very close attention. Or, put another way, immediately get on board with the premise as it's incrementally revealed and enjoy the ride.


The definition of insidious is, "proceeding in a gradual, subtle way but with harmful effects." And that's likely the template for most horror/paranormal thrillers.

They open benignly, the characters are of good cheer, going about their lives. In many cases they're moving into a new-old house, boxes yet to be unpacked, kitchenware being put away. The kids are outside playing. Perhaps there are woods nearby, dark and beckoning.

Of course, it's the audience that's aware that something sinister is afoot and it's only a matter of time until it's revealed.

In the recently released "Insidious" a young family — three children, the mom, Renai (Rose Byrne), who stays at home, hoping to resurrect a music career, and her husband, Josh (Patrick Wilson), who teaches at a local high school — has just moved into a gorgeous old craftsman in a suburban neighborhood. The house is three stories, the third story a darkly lighted attic. Everything creaks and groans: stairs, doors and attic.

Renai comes to believe that there's an ominous presence in the house, a strange force. Meanwhile her young son, Dalton (Ty Simpkins), falls into an inexplicable coma.

Jeepers Creepers films, meaning those movies that focus on paranormal activity to include individuals with supernatural abilities, have a long and distinguished history in Hollywood. The challenge for screenwriters is to find something not only original, but sufficiently scary to create a chilling sense of foreboding and dread. Call it the spooky sweet spot. Of course, writers shamelessly borrow from one another. Regarding "Insidious," it is derivative of "Poltergeist." But it also builds on the premise of demonic possession, the belief that there are spirits that can inhabit an individual for nefarious reasons.

It becomes the mission of men of the cloth, or others, to conduct an exorcism using all the powers at their command — "The Exorcist" still remains the gold standard. More recently was "The Rite," starring, of all people, Anthony Hopkins as a Catholic priest.

Part of the Jeepers Creepers repertoire is the house that is not a house but is inhabited by denizens of past residents who have unfinished business and are trapped in a kind of wood and plaster purgatory, waiting for an event or sacrifice that will release them from their torment.

The reason that films of this ilk are so popular, as well as ubiquitous, is that it does not require a huge suspension of disbelief to engage the audience.

Those who enjoy these movies do so because they enjoy the fright-night tension and likely possess, at least in part, the niggling belief that there is an alterative world inhabited by spirits or ghosts (who can forget the film "Ghost"?), even angels, that play a role (sinister or positive) in our daily lives.

"Insidious" works as well as most of these movies; perhaps even a bit better. At least in the first two acts. For some, it will be sheer nonsense, while arguing, with a shake of the head, that there is nothing beyond the evidence and all this whistling through the graveyard is just so much superstition and that sounds of something being dragged across the attic floor is just, well, an approaching storm. Or not.

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