Review: Insidious

James Wan's first directorial feature film since 2007's impressive Death Sentence, sees him team up again with frequent collaborator, Leigh Whannell (Writer of Saw/Death Sentence), as well as Oren Peli, the man behind Paranormal Activity. Given the reputation of these three, it would seem their latest feature Insidious would be one hell of a scary film. The film follows married couple Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai (Rose Byrne), moving into a new house with their three children. The couple soon have to deal with one of their sons falling into a coma-like state, which is thought to be part of some supernatural trauma. It is soon revealed that they are not alone in this new house, with malevolent forces tormenting them - these are thought to be connected with their sons unresponsive state. Paranormalist, Elise Renier (Lin Shaye) soon appears, and reveals to them (as the trailer so nicely puts it) - "It's not your house that's haunted. It's your son."  

Rose decided to skip the make-up today
I don't want to reveal too much of the plot or scares, so I'll try and keep this somewhat spoiler free. As the film begins we are immediately greeted by chilling opening titles featuring a montage of greyscale scenes showing sinister forces at bay in the house. We are then immediately hit with the blood red, gothic style title, Insidious. I'm not normally swept away by title sequences but these were striking, and before the film even begins we have a sense of the tense and atmospheric nature of the film. Early impressions would have us believe this is an Amityville Horror for the 21st Century or someone more cynical may say is a rehash of Paranormal Activity. The film certainly starts that way with boxes being moved around, demonic voices, etc. but attempts to become slightly more with the 'haunted child' element, this idea is met with mixed success. Throughout Insidious, we see some genuinely terrifying things, some of which caused me to gasp, for example we hear a noise and Renai runs upstairs to her baby's room - we are immediately struck by the shot of the baby standing  up in it's crib, but our attention soon gets diverted to a dark figure standing behind the child, which soon vanishes - this is just an example of the effective type of scares that the film has to offer.

Insidious soon delves into more familiar and cliched territory with paranormal investigators and seances (Slightly reminiscent of the wonderful The Exorcist II: The Heretic). These elements soon make the film feel frantic and disjointed, but genre veteran, Lin Shaye, particularly shines in them. Insidious soon takes a more dream-like approach following this, where again we see more impressive visuals and dark imagery - but this approach really does remove a lot of the realism from Insidious. This leads on to an extremely predictable and disappointing ending, that makes what was a tense, visually striking horror film feel slightly redundant.  

The legend...
The film is generally well acted by leads Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, but the real entertainment comes from the supporting cast. As well as the casting of Lin Shaye, there is another major horror connection, that of Barbara Hershey, who plays Josh's mother. Hershey previously starred in one of the most powerful horror films of the last century, The Entity, so it's a nice little connection to see her here. She's particularly captivating in a scene where she recalls a nightmare she had regarding Josh and Renai's house, which really brings some gravitas to the film.  

Overall, Insidious fares better as a straight forward haunted house film in it's first half, but as more dream-like elements are added towards the end it looses a lot of it's impact. However, there are still a large number of scares and tense scenes with striking imagery and atmosphere that make it a perfectly enjoyable horror film.

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