Horror. Worldview. Faith.

Insidious – Review

Insidious – Review

Apr 3, 2011

reviewed by hallo
directed by James Wan, 2011

The writing and directing dynamic duo of Leigh Whannell and James Wan, the pair who changed horror movies with their 2004 release Saw, are back in a low budget haunted house film called Insidious.  It will scare the pants off you.

The title card is perhaps the most stunning, effective, and uncomfortable sequence I have seen in any horror movie.  No other film comes to mind that better captures the anticipation of the viewer than Insidious’ opening title sequence.  As a matter of fact, and acknowledging the danger of taking this too far, the movie as a whole can be summed up by the title card:  Eerie, artistic, fun, and at times, cheesy.

The movie is about Josh and Renai, a young couple who have three children and are moving into a new, spacious home.  Renai is a composer and has taken a sabbatical from a “real job” to pursue her music and stay home with Callie, the infant.  Josh is a school teacher who seems to roll with the punches quite well and begins staying late at the school to grade test papers.  Their son, Dalton, begins to complain of being scared and uncomfortable in his room.  Then, after an ill-timed trip to the attic, Dalton falls into a deep coma that no doctor can explain.  Three months later, Renai begins hearing strange noises and seeing incredibly spooky people in her house.  One scene involving the baby monitor will bring you out of your chair.  Josh, although reluctant to believe Renai at first, eventually becomes convinced that not-good-things are happening – being suprised that his mother is taking Renai’s side through all of this.

The couple, on the advice of Josh’s mom (played by Barbara Hershey), hires a psychic to come into their home and investigate.  She immediately grasps the weight of the situation and explains to Josh and Renai that Dalton is an “astral” traveler, meaning that his spiritual person can go places without his physical person.  This time, unfortunately, he has traveled too far and is lost in a place called “The Further.”  Here is the one glaring problem with the film – Wan opts to reveal to the audience exactly what is happening through the means of a 10 minute exposition on the part of the psychic.  Think of the last 5 minutes of Hitchcock’s Psycho and you have that concept in the middle of this film.  I personally do not mind explanations like this, but it is very noticeable and does erode the possibility of giving the film a superb critical recommendation.

From this point, we learn that Josh used to be a “traveler” in his young days as well, something he has suppressed, and must now return to the “further” in order to save his son.  What follows are scares, delights, and a world of fun for any horror fan.

Wan is a special talent.  He uses zero special effects for the ghosts, they are just solid-bodied people (he didn’t have the money for effects!), and yet they are some of the more spine-tingling images on film I have seen in a long time. I was somewhat underwhelmed by the actual face of the lead demon in the “further” as it appeared that George Lucas brought Darth Maul back to life for this film.   Wan goes way overboard in some areas, staying consistent with his over-the-top style as seen in Saw.  For example, in once seance-type scene, the psychic is wearing a gas mask with a long tube extending from the mouth that is attached to her assistant’s headphones.  He writes down her words.  This takes a very normal and mandatory “seance” scene for any haunted house movie and adds a fun, dramatic, and spooky touch.

I found it interesting that a movie so focused on possession, afterlife, and “other” world activity never once mentions religion, the name of God, or the concept of Christ.  There is one priest that makes a very brief appearance, but that’s it.  Instead of “May the power of Christ compel you”, we get “leave this vessel.”  I don’t have any problem with Wan opting for a religionless possession film, but it is unusual and worth mentioning.

Finally, the movie teeter-toters between beautiful, manicured imagery with genuine scares and downright cheesiness.  In some strange kind of way, when the cheese happens, we are relieved to know that cheese can still be cool and Wan bats 1000 every time.  Of this I can promise you – if you view Insidious in the theater, you will get spooked, you will jump, you will yell at the screen, and you will smile.

Yep, for that alone it is worth 10 bucks.

One comment

  1. Scott /

    Going to see Insidious this week. Woot!

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