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A movie directed by James Wan

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A nice self-parody, but undeniably creepy horror movie.

  • Aug 1, 2011
*** 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 "Death Sentence", which I thought was pretty pathetic; with some good camera-work and DECENT performances from its stars, but let's not forget that it also lacked emotional resonance as well as a reason to be involved. It was senseless, stupid story-telling drenched in blood and bullets.

And yet, "Insidious" is much different. I think it works because Wan and his writer and long-time-collaborator, Leigh Whannell, are not ripping off anything to make their own haunted house movie; they are merely taking influence from past films. Essentially, Wan understands what makes a good haunted house movie and what makes a bad one. His movie is creepy, atmospheric, and at times even surreal. Thus, it is a true haunted house movie, just not a perfect one.

Nor will it ever be regarded as a classic, and that is decidedly so. The film involves a couple, Renai (Rose Byrne) and Josh (Patrick Wilson) who have just recently moved into a new house. We first meet the couple when they are still in the unpacking process. They have three kids; two young sons and a baby. Everything seems to be going well enough, and we're wondering how this thing could ever end up a horror movie through the path that it's taking, but then disaster strikes in unexpected places. Dalton, the curious and most narratively important son, decides to explore the old attic one day, falls on a ladder, and bumps his head hard. He seems to be alright, until the next morning. He doesn't wake up. Dalton is in a coma.

Yet, nobody can explain how he is in it; or if it is really a coma. His parents have their disbeliefs. Renai stays at home while Josh works. However, it seems that every day, something new occurs within the house; and Renai is there to see it. There are voices on the baby monitor. The other young son complains about Dalton walking around at night; although we know this isn't possible, because he's been in his bed, motionless, for months.

Renai is getting unwanted visits from presumably supernatural entities. One night, she snaps, and demands that the entire family moves to a new house; and they do. So, she thinks it's the house that is haunted. But us, as the audience; we are not so sure.

When the supernatural occurrences do not stop, the couple calls in a psychic (Lin Shaye) and her assistants (Angus Sampson and Leigh Whannell). She reveals to them that their son is, in fact, not in a coma at all. He is partaking in something that is much like dreaming; although UNLIKE dreaming, he is trapped within a world called The Further; an alternate reality which houses demons as well as the souls of the dead. He is having out-of-body experiences, and the only way to get him back is to go into the realm and rescue him then and there. But the question remains: how will that be made possible?

I'm going to stop there. "Insidious" has a few narrative twists up its sleeve, and good or not, I wouldn't want to spoil them for you. "Insidious" moves along as it should when it comes to the film's narrative, although the narrative is also where the problems reside. I guess I'll get them over with now. For starters, the film takes a lot of time trying to develop its characters. Each of them is well-acted, but the human characters are almost too simple and relatable to be called well-written. And then there's the infamous use of the "twist ending", and the one that "Insidious" arrives with is a rather disappointing one.

However, I appreciated and enjoyed the film a lot more than I expected to. The film isn't necessarily "scary", but it does have a very good sense of atmosphere and tension. There are jump scares galore, but I liked how James Wan and his team of filmmakers designed them to not feel Hollywood-generic-cheap. I also liked how James Wan directed the film as a whole. My favorite scene was more like a story arc; when a character actually goes into The Further itself. That scene was surreal, pleasurable, and entertaining-as-hell. "Insidious" is a fun haunted house movie that makes use of what it's got: ghosts that need introduction, creepy 30's songs that need revisiting, and Darth Maule-looking-creepy-characters that need new work. As for Wan, I hope he knows that he's succeeded in making a good movie here. He has improved on what he tried to do in "Dead Silence". He has nearly perfected his directorial technique, and for that, "Insidious" is a film that has earned my praise.

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More Insidious reviews
review by . April 04, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
A Parody-Like Occult Horror Fantasy That Starts Well But Collapses At The End...
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 …
review by . April 02, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
review by . March 30, 2011
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 …
review by . July 13, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Aptly named.
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 …
review by . November 28, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Just a waste of time.
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 …
review by . May 06, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
Quick Tip by . July 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
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Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #3
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


  • Opened April 1, 2011 (Special screening on 3/29) | Runtime:1 hr. 42 min.
  • PG-13
    Violence, thematic material, terror, brief strong language and frightening images
  • A family looks to prevent evil spirits from trapping their comatose child in a realm called The Further.
  • Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye, Ty Simpkins, Angus Sampson, Barbara Hershey
  • Director: James Wan
  • Genres: Haunted House FilmHorror
  • Poster art for "Insidious."
  • view wiki


    Director: James Wan
    Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Horror, Thriller
    Release Date: 1 April 2011 (USA)
    MPAA Rating: PG-13
    Screen Writer: Leigh Whannell
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