Director: James Wan
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, Lin Shaye
Plot: When the Lambert family’s son falls into a coma, they soon learn that there are supernatural elements afoot.
I didn’t want to go and watch Insidious. I have had bad experiences with horror movies, the only one ever really impressing me being ‘The Strangers’. Everything else was a B-Movie embarrassment with one-dimensional characters and terrible scares. However, my friends coerced me into giving this a shot and my mind was consequentially blown. Insidious became my favourite horror movie to date.
We are introduced to the Lambert family moving house, portrayed well by Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne. They are asked to play the Lamberts ordinarily, handling the scared yet likeable roles well, something no other actor in a horror movie I’ve seen has totally managed before. While exploring the house, their eldest son trips in the attic and is thrown into a coma that no doctor can explain. Distraught, the Lamberts try to get along with their life, hoping their son will snap out of it any time soon. That’s when strange noises begin echoing through the house and the couple cannot shake the feeling that something is watching them.
James Wan is quickly becoming one of the most talked about horror directors out there right now. He has taken a tired genre and revitalised it. He was responsible for coming up with the character of Saw (making the original movie, but not any of those dreaded sequels) and the enjoyable ‘Conjuring’ earlier this year. The most impressive thing about Wan is that he knows his own material like the back of his hand and that’s what makes watching his movies so enjoyable. He loves the haunted house genre and even if most of us, including myself, are tired of it, Wan finds a way to make us come around to giving it another chance. He lovingly creates this setting, builds up characters we enjoy spending time with and then sets us on this rollercoaster ride that will scare the hell out of us.
The most enjoyable thing about Insidious for me is the amount of ghosts out there to be scared of. Usually with a horror movie, the reveal is the breaking point of a film. We can’t spend too long in the shadows or we will get bored but if the monster is revealed too early and fails to scare us, the remainder of the film will be a painfully unscary experience. Here, Wan has several villains up his sleeve, so he can have the reveal moment as many times as he likes. As he gets the exposition-friendly paranormal expert character to tell us that there are several monsters lying in wait around the house. Some are merely lost souls that are using the Lambert’s son as a second shot at life. Then there are the more ‘insidious’ figures that want to wreck some havoc on the world (my personal scariest – this one is like my horror movie kryptonite!). Finally, we have the big bad, who, while isn’t particularly scary in hindsight, Wan uses him fleetingly, so while you are sitting through your first watch, you don’t quite make the comparison between it and Darth Maul.
The ending is a mixed bag. Some hate it, saying that it brings the whole movie down with its ridiculous style. If you can get over that though, it actually is quite an interesting premise. It is shot very stylistically and really gives the audience a sense that they are watching a dream-like universe. The craziness of the moment adds to the terror, including one scene with the most insane smile in a horror for a long while. It also adds to the action for those getting bored with the jump-scares one after the other. This scene is much better on a second watch, because it does feel like a climax rather than an abrupt ending that most haunted house movies close with. Sure, I appreciate that these scenes are flawed, especially when the monsters don’t feel as powerful, and, as a result, less scary, but seeing as the film has done so much right before this moment I am willing to forgive it.
And that cliffhanger… god, I was at the edge of my seat. I did not sleep easy that night. Or the night after… Or the night after…
Final Verdict: Terrifying fantastic, propelling James Wan into the spotlight for horror movies. Insidious remains my favourite horror movie for the time being.