Movie Review: Insidious

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When their son goes into a mysterious coma and strange things start happening in their home, the Lamberts discover a spooky family secret.

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James Wan, 2010

When Josh and Renai Lambert (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) move their three children to a big old house, scary things start happening and their son Dalton goes into a medically unexplainable coma. Josh starts working late nights to avoid the situation, leaving Renai to be haunted by a series of different ghosts mostly alone. Things finally come to a head and Josh is forced to get involved when they discover that what’s happening to them might have its roots in his past.

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Having seen The Conjuring, this film seems like a warm-up; there’s a mix of old-school haunted house creeps with an abundance of jump scares. It’s mostly a pretty average film, with a few bright spots: the leads are good, although Rose Byrne is given almost nothing to do except act stressed and scared, and the ensemble works well together. (At one point, Rose Byrne mentions that the universe is seeing how far it can push her before she snaps and a supporting character says “then the universe picked a fight with the wrong chick” – great sentiment, and I was hopeful about its promise, but her role didn’t live up to the line.) Patrick Wilson is good too, though he’s better in The Conjuring, and Lin Shaye as the medium is steely fun. There’s a clever continuity to the film’s twist that works well within its structure, although I think the twist itself is less clever (and less secret) than the filmmakers think (it’s on all the posters). This begins to do what The Conjuring does so well; it establishes the laws of the filmic world it’s working within and is consistent with those throughout. Unlike many of its kind, this is a horror film that makes sense within its own boundaries.

There are a few scary spirits, too; the best of these is a family I dubbed “the smilers”, and if you watch the movie you’ll see why. They’re a testament to creepy over jumpy, while a lot of the others rely on loud noises to be effective, and the Darth Maul-like “scary” main demon is not really scary at all once you see him. The film works better in the beginning when the scares are building than in the reveal, as so many scary movies do. The soundtrack is an exercise in total lack of restraint, screeching its way through like an off-the-rails freight train. It’s sometimes shot well, although the locations get confusing (one house kinda looks like another to me). There’s a heavy reliance on the soundtrack and the jumps to do the scaring rather than the situation generating real fear. I do feel like James Wan learnt from the mistakes on this one to make The Conjuring as scary as it is, but this is a slightly above-average creeper, mostly due to its leads. Definitely a step up from the Saw franchise, at any rate.

Insidious on IMDb

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