starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye, and Barbara Hershey
directed by James Wan
written by Leigh Whannel
Alliance Films (2011)
I am always skeptical when movie critics tout any film as "the best in decades", and the blurbs that Alliance Films plastered on the DVD case for this movie read like I was set to watch Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. I hate that about hype, whether it's movies, TV, or even books. I just want a good story, so please don't set the bar insanely high before I've even sat down to enjoy your product. Now, having said all that, Insidious was pretty effing good.
Josh and Renai (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) move their three kids into a new house in some quaint little suburb, but when their eldest son, Dalton, goes into a coma following an incident in the attic, strange things start happening in the house. Doors open, something bangs on the walls, there are voices whispering, and even a malevolent figures looms over their infant daughter. The building tension and escalating jump scares through the course of the haunting feel very familiar, but none of it felt cliched. Rose Byrne especially performed well as a the distraught mother who knows there's something evil in the house but can't convince her husband. It's a sticking point in haunted house films that grates on me more often than not, but the chemistry between Byrne and Wilson worked well, and most of their characters' choices felt plausible.
After a really intense encounter that has their comatose son targeted by some malevolent spirit, Renai convinces Josh to move them to a new house, which adds even more strain to their relationship, as he's been avoiding the house by working late, leaving her alone to deal with the tumult. But the spirits follow them to the new house, and when a medium named Elise(Lin Shaye) comes to investigate, they learn it's not the house, but their son that is haunted. This was where things took a different tone for a while, with Josh suddenly resistant to all notions that there is a supernatural influence, despite witnessing several disturbing instances. Then there is the bumbling duo of ghost hunters that accompany Elise, one even played by the movie's screenwriter, Leigh Whannel. In one sense, the comedic touches helped add a release valve on the very heavy suspense, but it became more of a distraction from the plot than anything else.
For a movie that could have easily drifted into Amityville Horror territory--that's not a compliment, by the way--Insidious finds a balance between the fantastic and the frightening. There is one scene involving an astral plain called The Further that felt like a blatant callback to Poltergeist (you'll know the one I mean when you see it). And the seance scene, despite a couple tweaks, felt well-worn and lacked any real suspense for me. It's oddly enough, the jump scares that work best in the film, used to their fullest potential. A couple of times I actually flinched, and that doesn't happen very often with modern horror films.
I don't think I'd rank it high on my list of favorite haunted house movies, but it was an entertaining one that's for sure, and I think it'll be a movie I won't mind revisiting again and again.
The house with its hardwood floors and shadowed corners is practically a breed ground for spooky scenarios,
Josh, Renai, and Dalton Lambert hired Elise, a medium, and Specs, Leigh Whannel, to get rid of a demon. Lorraine his mother knows abotu Josh's past. Lipstick-Face Demon, Old Woman, Long Haired Fiend, and the Doll Girls.