Going into a horror film with trailers such as those of “Insidious”; one wouldn’t be hard-pressed to believe that he would be privy to another one of those clichéd “fright shows” and yet it provides loads of fun entertainment. Well, the director of the “Saw” film and of movies such as “Dead Silence” and “Death Sentence” teams up with the producers of “Paranormal Activity”; Oren Peli and company. What results is a film that can be real fun, as Wan effectively creates a horror flick that has the sensibilities, atmosphere of low-budget spook-taculars while maintaining a weird sense of humor. You like “jump scares” and shock cinema, with elements that almost feel like a parody or homage film of sorts? “Insidious” may just be the film for you.
A handsome married couple, Renai (Rose Byrne) and Josh (Patrick Wilson) with their three children, have settled in a new house. But the family barely gets the chance to unpack as strange and bewildering things begin to occur, as the oldest child, Dalton (Ty Simpkins) suddenly is thrown into a coma following an accident in the attic. This state bewilders doctors, worries his parents and it doesn’t show any signs of getting better. Things go from bad to worst, as apparitions and strange entities seem to plague their property and the family decides to move and start anew. But it seems like whatever caused them to move have followed them into their new home. Out desperation, fear and worry, Renai calls for aid from her mother-in-law (Barbara Hershey) and she in turn calls in a spirit-investigator named Elise (Lin Shaye) and her duo of nerdy techs (Angus Sampson and screenwriter Leigh Wannell). Elise immediately determines the source of the problem and now they must help each other to survive the demonic onslaughts.
“Insidious” has elements borrowed from “Poltergeist”, the “Paranormal Activity” franchise, Dead Silence”, some other classical and Asian horror movies (“Shutter”) that we’ve seen in the past. At its outrageous opening sequence, I saw similarities to a standard Sam Raimi horror flick or one of those “Tales from The Crypt” episodes. It is a very clichéd flick and never tries to mask what it is trying to do. Wan seems to be in both familiar and different grounds as he manipulates the senses in an effort to unnerve, to excite and maybe give the viewer some Goosebumps. I have to say, from a visual standpoint, the film is a success; it captures the right mood, tone and atmosphere necessary to give the feeling of a haunted house feature and also answers the question as to why people don’t just simply move out when they find their house is being haunted.
The story is pretty simple and Wan never shies away from using ‘jump scares’ and visual manipulation to keep the viewer interested. The plot borrows some things from several occult and demonic legends such as the “hollow shell” or the “soulless body” and then it uses some supernatural mumbo-jumbo about astral projections, a realm where restless spirits gather called “The Further” (I am impressed Lin Shaye managed to say this with a straight face) and it keeps the viewer on his toes as the film engages with several creepy scenes that reveal exactly what the hell was going on with this family. The film begins strongly and it manages to keep me interested even as the director then tries to incorporate some touches of humor and qualities that may put the film in the books of goofy cult cinema.
The two techs were the prologue to Elise’s ala-“Zelda Rubinstein” ghost-hunting arrival as they use technology to gain proof to the haunting (this includes a modified “view master”) and were the touches of humor that the direction saw necessary to keep the film going. After Elise sees a figure, the film seems to slowly lose its momentum, as the clichés seemed to slowly cave in all around it. The spirit world designs were simple and granted they were meant to be manifestations, but I had to laugh as I saw that ‘gas mask’ and the demonic entity that looked strangely close to a certain Sith Lord. The direction started to become an uneven mess, as clichés after cliché seemed to be pitched in one after the other. It somehow ruins the creepy atmosphere that was established in its first half. It then falls into the trappings of "come follow my voice" kinda deal. I wouldn’t have minded the clichés, but the direction just felt so uneven with the sudden tonal shifts and cheap areas of the script. Wan seemed to put in every horror movie formula as he could think of, as we see souped up spectral projection, complete with bouncing light effects and physical assaults.
“Insidious” has quite a few good moments to save it from becoming a total loss. The acting was decent and the film did have quite a few creepy moments; but I truly felt that the climax was a mere attempt to put in another homage. I am not sure, some people applauded while some folks were laughing during my screening. Myself, I found myself thinking to myself: “That’s it?!” and I felt that the ending should've been more. James Wan made a horror film that plays on several parodies and tributes; but after awhile, he couldn’t keep its energy going for its entirety. It had a good first half but it just collapsed in on itself as it couldn’t sustain what it had established. Something that was meant to unnerve, did; although it was for different reasons. Wan does know ‘jump scares’, horror atmosphere and tributes but needs more pointers in the rendition of solid storytelling.
*** out of **** "Insidious" is a horror film that attempts to combine the "Poltergeist Formula" with the "James Wan Formula". Wan, the man behind the well-known "Saw", directed the film, and I've never been as happy to say so. He hasn't made an actual good movie since "Saw", but he's tried. He made "Dead Silence", which I admired and for the most part enjoyed, but it lacked true scares, atmosphere, or anything beyond its extremely intriguing visual design. Then, Wan made … more
Star Rating: The interesting thing about Insidious is that it’s very good at being completely unoriginal. In their third collaboration, director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell indulge in just about every conceivable haunted house cliché, and they do it with such style and conviction that I just couldn’t bring myself to blame them for it. This doesn’t mean that I’m recommending the movie; it just means that I understand … more
What happens when the creators of SAW and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY team up to make a horror movie called Insidious? Maybe something that is not so great. Being a huge fan of horror films, especially the movie PARANORMAL and its sequels – it’s always exciting to see a scary movie when the team consists of a successful cast and crew. With great actors that have done impressive … more
INSIDIOUS Written by Leigh Wannell Directed by James Wan Starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne and Barbra Hershey I hate to be the guy who does this but as I had to look it up before watching the movie, I feel justified in saying that if you look up “insidious” in the dictionary, you will learn that it means proceeding in a gradual, subtle way but with harmful effects. And so INSIDIOUS, director James Wan’s first … more
After watching both Paranormal Activity 1 and 2 I began having a little more hope for the horror movie genre. Maybe now directors will take a page from Oren Peli's book and actually make good horror flicks. Maybe 2011 is the year horror movies stop sucking, but alas I was naive to think that. Insidious tells the story of a little boy names Dalton and his family. After exploring there new house Dalton falls off a ladder and gets a nasty bruise, luckily its nothing … more
15 - 103mins - Fantasy/Horror/Thriller - 29th April 2011 Now if there is one thing that freaks me out most in movies it is horrors that involve children in any way. So when I sat down to watch a movie from the guys and gals that have given us Paranormal Activity revolving around the story of a possessed child, well lets just say I had my diaper at the ready! Insidious follows a textbook family, the parents- Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai (Rose Byrne) that have it all as they move into their … more
I love a good horror movie but alas they are so hard to find! Some are just too disgusting and gross for me, zombie movies are all the same, some lack any kind of scare tactics and others are just plain dumb and make no sense whatsoever. I always keep in mind too that movies not rated R usually don't interest me much. After watching Insidious I was surprised that one rated at PG 13 actually made me jump several times and kept my interest. There were … more