Director – James Wan
Cast – Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Andrew Astor, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Barbara Hershey, Corbett Tuck
Release Year – 2011
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Insidious is a film I was very much looking forward to once I saw that it would come from Saw writer/director Leigh Whannel and James Wan. The two struck horror gold with Saw, and gave us a positive dummy film in Dead Silence, and they have now once again achieved horror stardom with Insidious, the scariest film I have seen in a long while. Filmed for a shoestring budget roughly $800,000, Insidius does very much with what little they had to work with, and it delivers more horror than I ever expected from a modern day horror flick.
Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne star as Josh and Renai Lambert, a happily married couple relocating to a new home with their three young children. When their oldest son, Dalton, mysteriously suffers what appears to be a coma, Josh and Renai are left at odds over this sad condition of their young son. Soon after, Renai and then Josh begin to experience strange phenomena around their home, and a paranormal investigator(Lin Shaye) is brought in only to tell them what they never expected to hear: Dalton’s soul has become trapped in a dark realm known as The Further, and a powerful demon is on the hunt to consume his soul.
I was expecting a positive effort from these veteran horror filmmakers, which includes Paranormal Activity writer/director Oren Peli as a producer for the film, but I did not expect Insidious to be THIS awesome. Whannell’s story takes its time developing throughout the first act, setting up the horrific events that would very soon ensue and never relent. If you know me then you know I enjoy supernatural films, because whether you believe in life after death or paranormal dimensions, the subject matter is downright scary if you allow it to envelop you. At first the story comes off as a haunted house flick, and in somewhat the same vein as Paranormal Activity. Doors open and close on their own, mysterious noises are heard on baby monitors, and creaks and thumps abound when there is no one else in the home to make such noises. I loved this, and things were only made even more awesome when the horror became insidious itself, meaning that it gradually increased as the runtime increased. This idea was genius to me, and it came as no surprise given I consider Whannell to be one of the more creative writers of horror these days. Soon after we learn that there is a supernatural presence surrounding the comatose Dalton, and that is when things really kick into gear. What surprised me the most about this story was how MUCH horror is in this 102 minute watch. From the beginning of the second act to the climax we are exposed to constant scares and good spooks that never let you get comfortable in your seat for more than a few minutes at a time, which I am sure was the goal of the filmmakers. I was happy to see that for a film involving a haunted house that we were given multiple locations involving the haunted homes. Usually in a haunted home film it involves a family moving into a home that they soon learn has a haunted past, well that is the case with this film…at first. Once they realize the dangers in their new home, the Lamberts move into another home…only to find that the horror has followed them there, meaning that it was never the homes that were haunted. The idea is great and made this a pretty unique effort for a pseudo-haunted house flick, and it helped the film’s pacing as well by along with the numerous scares, kept things interesting. This brings me to the film’s final act, which in line with its “insidious” nature consisted of the most horror the film had to offer. I have never seen a final like this one, which involved traveling into The Further, and it only added to the film’s fun horrific experience. I must say though that I felt the final act was not as great as the two that preceded it, but that does not by any means say that it was not enjoyable. Time and time again we see horror films that deliver during the first two acts and then fall flat during the final one, but that did not occur with Insidious as its third act upped the horror and gave me a harrowing climax that I really enjoyed. Surprisingly enough, we don’t get a true twist ending in this film, something uncharacteristic of the Whannell/Wan duo, but I did not mind it.
Wan’s direction is fantastic, and he makes great use of what little they had to work with. Filmed on only two sets and with little budget to make mistakes with, he was forced to get creative with camerawork and lighting to make the scares as good as they were, and his choices for the two homes were fantastic and provided superb atmosphere to this already creepy story. His execution of the scares was great, and while we get a fair amount of jump scares I did not mind them given the ghosts and entities used were original in their own right and the jump scares were actually…scary. At times it felt like his execution of the horror was a bit comedic, which I found to be the case in Dead Silence, and I found it quite original and in fact it reminded me of the “fun” horror we were given in the 80s, but with a modern day look to it. I mentioned earlier that I was very surprised at how much horror was written into the film, and Wan complimented the story with giving us a full-frontal view of the horror the Lambert family was exposed to. The horror feels real, it is close up, and no matter what you do it won’t leave you alone, and that is why I loved Insidious.
Overall, Insidious is another great horror experience from the Whannell/Wan duo that delivers possibly the most horror I have seen in a film when you consider its 102 minute runtime. Whannell’s story consists of numerous twists and turns sure to keep you engaged, and plenty of unique elements that make this supernatural and pseudo-haunted house flick one of the more unique of its kind. Wan’s superb direction and use of creepy atmosphere sells the story and his execution of the horror sure to keep you on the edge of your seat in this newest winner from the Whannell/Wan duo.