Insidious (2010) - A family looks to prevent evil spirits from trapping their comatose child in a realm called The Further.
I always try to avoid spoilers on my site. With a film like Insidious it was trickier than usual for some reason. I’ve tried to go into the plot and summarise what went down here just enough to whet your appetite if you haven’t already seen it. It may sound a little crazy, but just bear with me here, Insidious is more than worthy of your time.
Cast wise, there’s Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson), the dad, whose job as a teacher demands him to work long hours. Renai (Rose Byrne), the mother, has all-but-given up a song-writing career to raise their young children. The family has recently moved into a new house. Josh, despite being a loving and attentive husband and father when he’s around, is spending longer hours than ever away from home, and Renai is becoming increasingly run-down from the difficulties of setting up the new house and caring for the kids.
Tragedy strikes when one of their children Dalton falls from a ladder in the attic and hits his head, and then slips into a coma during the night. Three months later, the situation has not changed. As bad as circumstances with Dalton are, things continue to get worse for the Lambert’s. Strange noises, movements and voices heard through a baby monitor convince Renai that the house is haunted, and whatever is causing the haunting is a malevolent force.
It was really nice to see them act intelligently, which is a rarity. When, after one particularly bad night in the house, Renai announces that they must leave, that’s what they do. They get help. They consult experts. We respect the characters because, for the most part, they respond as we might in their circumstances. The experts in this case are an exorcist (Lin Shaye) and her two bungling assistants (Angus Sampson and Leigh Whannell) who are called in to cast out the demons. They do a few tests and then explain that Dalton’s spirit has wandered into an otherworldly existence called ‘The Further’ and other spirits are now trying to climb into his body. I’ll stop there with plot details as this is a movie that will surprise you and is best going into with as little knowledge as possible.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: in my opinion James Wan is the most exciting director working in the horror genre. He is on directing duty here for Insidious, and his inventive use of camera angles which include hand-held and point-of-view shots draws the viewer into the story. Very different to the fast cuts from his Saw days. Working from a screenplay by Leigh Whannell (who co-wrote Saw with Wan and has a supporting role here) he proves that he doesn’t need the blood and viscera to generate psychological horror. Combined with the fact that it is produced by Paranormal Activity writer and director Oren Peli, it’s a very strong team working behind this movie.
Insidious is a scary movie. Pretty remarkable considering it has a PG-13 rating (15 here in the UK) but proof films aiming at the younger demographic can still provide frights. The ‘jump-scare‘ moments, which are numerous, are expertly crafted and aren’t as cheap or theatrical as is sometimes the case in horror movies. Bloody handprints are found on Dalton’s bed and faces appear in the windows almost nightly. The music score really sets things up, and even when nothing happens the music had me on the edge of my seat in anticipation.
Everyone puts in a fantastic performance. As our leads, Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson are perfect and whilst the ghost-busting duo later on provide the laughs, it does get a little far-fetched towards the end. Crazy even. And whilst some critics have said the films starts well but finishes poorly, I have to disagree. I think it is solid all the way through, and even when the couple find out what is wrong with their child, the film kept going to places that maybe shouldn’t work but they did for me. I loved Insidious, and cannot recommend it highly enough. It’s incredible to think that it was made on a budget of an estimated $1,500,000. Proof that quality movies can be made on small budgets, it’s all about the story and how it is told. Insidious: Chapter 2 is due out later this year, and I will be there opening night.