Insidious (2010)

Insidious (2010)

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Darth Maul finally found some work post-Episode 1.
Darth Maul finally found some work post-Episode 1.

Twitter Plot Summary: Evil spirits haunt the family that have just moved into a big creepy house. Their son is the main target…

Genre: Horror/Thriller

Director: James Wan

Key Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Lyn Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Barbara Hershey

Five Point Summary:

1. Creepy voices on the baby monitor… oh my.
2. They move house and it’s still freaky!
3. Is that Darth Maul?
4. Seance plus gas mask = weirdness.
5. CONTRA-ZOOM!

Many lamented the death of the horror movie some years back after the genre seemed to take a dive into torture porn waters never to return. More recently we’ve seen a resurgence in the paranormal films of old, and a wider variety of horror movies in general. For me, a horror fan of 11 years standing, this is no bad thing.

So what happens when a family move into a great big house? Simples – if it’s a horror movie then it’s going to be haunted. It seems that literally within minutes of a normal family, helmed by the entirely normal pairing of Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, moving into their new home the eldest child ends up in a coma and spooky goings on start to take place. The thing is, after the scares get too much and the family move to a normal suburban household, the freaky goings on continue. Naturally one of the parents is a skeptic whereas the other is the one seeing freaky things yet despite best efforts can’t make the other see what’s happening. Eventually they have to take steps to figure out why they’re being targeted.

James Wan is particularly good at building tension, starting with some very gentle camera movements and then augmenting it with either sound effects, music or, if necessary, a sudden jump. Often he uses the camera voyeuristically, as if the spirit or whatever is spying on the family or the house. Leigh Whannell, the writer of Insidious and who arguably started off the whole torture porn genre with the original (and best) Saw film, also directed by James Wan, essentially writes a typically cliche horror film that in lesser hands would have been standard horror fare. That’s not to say his script isn’t good, but it retreads a lot of familiar territory and doesn’t break new ground in quite the same way as Saw did. You’ve seen everything done before, but there’s a couple of twists to the formula to keep it interesting. Sadly the second half lacks much of the scares of the first, although it does maintain a suitable level of tension to see you through to the finale. It’s when they have to resort to CGI, albeit very briefly, that it feels like it might lose its way, but that moment passes and we’re back to practical effect scares. As it should be.

Upstairs, something waited for them. It was probably Darth Maul.
Upstairs, something waited for them. It was probably Darth Maul.

Despite having a serious dislike of horror films when I was younger (and even the 1970s Incredible Hulk TV series – I was a cowardly child), since my university years I have slowly desensitised myself to supremely violent horror films and the gorier it is the less scary I find it. My weak spot, as in the horror films that genuinely can scare me, are those in the paranormal/supernatural sub-genre of horror, where something from another realm is interfering with the real world. Thus, anything like this has the potential, if done well, to scare the pants off me. Insidious does that and then some, but sadly falls flat in the final stretch. The scares are simple yet effective, lots of potent imagery and directorial flourishes to send shivers up your spine and to activate our fight or flight reflex. It’s not entirely successful but when it works, it works. For a horror film, that’s all we can ask for.

Favourite scene: Rose Byrne puts out the litter and we see what appears to be a little boy dancing to the record playing in the background.

Quote: “This is the first line of a joke, right? A guy comes home to find his wife with a priest.”

Silly Moment: The spirits in The Further. 50s Americana gone weird.

Score: 3.5/5

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