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A movie directed by James Wan

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A Parody-Like Occult Horror Fantasy That Starts Well But Collapses At The End...

  • Apr 4, 2011
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.

                               Leigh Whannell and Lin Shaye in "Insidious."

                               Rose Byrne as Renai in "Insidious."

“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.


                               Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson in "Insidious."

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.

RENTAL [2 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
Poster art for "Insidious." Poster art for "Insidious."
A Parody-Like Occult Horror Fantasy That Starts Well But Collapses At The End... A Parody-Like Occult Horror Fantasy That Starts Well But Collapses At The End...

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July 17, 2011
I saw this one last night as a rental and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It had some moments that seemed a little off-the-wall - like the gas mask part lol but overall it made me jump many times. I think that after seeing so many really dumb and boring horror movies lately, this one was refreshingly good.
July 17, 2011
I know what you mean. Amid all the bad remakes, the mainstream horror, this was refreshing. Wan knows how to create a horror tone and mood, but the story was a little too hollow and collapsed because of its reliance to homages. I thought the face of the demon looked like something from Star Wars too....

Are you going to review this one?
July 17, 2011
I only did a short quick tip Woo. Yeah, the demons could be a little strange looking, but they still made me jump and spill my iced tea! LOL
July 17, 2011
I'd like to eye gouge one of the demons in this movie.
July 17, 2011
lol --
July 11, 2011
The review is very informative.
July 17, 2011
July 18, 2011
U are very welcome !
April 13, 2011
Fantastic, professional review! I think I really will be seeing this one in theaters eventually, as it sounds good enough for me, lol. Your review was very, very helpful; and I appreciate the lack of spoilers. :-) Great job!
April 13, 2011
Hi, JJ!! Thank you! Hey, we've missed your reviews in our community lately. How have you been?
April 15, 2011
Hi! I know, I'm sorry! :-( I've been sick and haven't really been watching any kind of movies, exercise or other, lol. But I'm going to try to get some up later this month. :-) Thanks for asking! How have you been?
April 15, 2011
sorry to hear you've been sick. I am glad you are feeling better now. I am fine I guess, could be better but overall, not so bad.
April 06, 2011
I can't really see myself enjoying this one, but really good review! I may check it on DVD
April 06, 2011
Thanks! Oh, if you have any questions at all about using the many features of the site. Message me and I'll try to help as much as I can.
April 06, 2011
Sounds like a 2 at best.
April 06, 2011
great atmosphere and style. It was good and suspenseful until....well, it turned into a display of cliches.
April 04, 2011
Nice review. I liked Saw, but I haven't really been impressed with Wan's work ever since. There is potental, but his flicks never seem to reach with again the exception of Saw. I will see this, but not until BD. Plus I don't got the cash right now to see this after buying the Scream flicks. And I'm saving my cash for the BD of Deep Red and to go see Scream 4. Going to the movies is far too expensive these days
April 04, 2011
I know what you mean. I try to usually go at the $ 6.00 show on weekends or matinee on weeknights. Lemme know when you review SCREAM 4, honesty, I dunno if I am going to see that one....
April 05, 2011
Scream 4 comes out april 15th. I should have my reveiw ready that night (though I'll probably re-review it when it comes out on BD). But I'm pumped for it. Love Kevin Williamson and Scream 3 sucked without him. Should be interesting to see if Kevin make the transition from one era to another (based on his last couple of films doesn't seem like he can, but we shall see)
April 16, 2011
I know Craven did "My Soul to Take", what else did Williamson do?
April 16, 2011
Williamson's credits as writer are, Scream, Scream 2, Scream 4, I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Faculty, Cursed (W/Craven) as producer, Vennom, H20 (also did some un-credited re-writing). As writer/director Teaching Mrs. Tingle. He also created Dawson's Creek and was a producer/writer (he left after the 2nd season). He's created or worked on a slew of TV shows all flopped except The Vampire Diaries (never watched it)
April 04, 2011
I think we're just about in total agreement here. For sheer tone, the film works very well; for plot and characters, it's a combination of just about every haunted house movie ever made. Visually speaking, I greatly enjoyed the scene in which Josh enters The Further. The fog, the lighting, the candles, the dead family with the frightening smiles -- it all gave it the distinctive feel of a carnival funhouse. I didn't like the final twist, however; quite frankly, I wish Wan would stop doing that in his movies.
April 04, 2011
I know. Great commentary on the 'carnival funhouse' deal. This had enormous potential, and it left me wondering that maybe Wan should be a cinemtographer or a set designer than a full-on director. He needs major pointers in story-execution.
April 04, 2011
Spoiler alert:

Chris that scene when Elise was looking at the ceiling as one of the techs sketched what she saw, I feel that it was a homage to another horror movie but I cannot remember which one, any ideas? 
April 04, 2011
Actually, no. I've seen a lot of horror movies, but at the moment, I can't recall seeing that scene in any of them. There are plenty of horror movies I've missed -- maybe it's in one of them.
April 04, 2011
Great review WP, although it sounds like it could have been much better. Still I will most likely buy it when it is released.
April 04, 2011
Yeah. Too bad it couldn't sustain everything....
More Insidious reviews
review by . August 01, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
*** 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 …
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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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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