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Insidious Review

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Trailers can be deceptive. For example, when this writer saw the first teaser for The A Team movie, I flipped. But initial hype over, the movie itself was a sum of the best parts of the trailer wrapped around a mediocre story, laced with some impressive set pieces. Having spotted the trailer for Insidious trailer late one Sunday night while channel surfing, my horror antennae was well and truly spiked.
The film is the work of director James Wan and Leigh Wannell, respectively, the writer and director of the Saw franchise. That surpressed my interest somewhat as I feared it would be another instalment in the horror / torture porn category. And my interest in that genre peaked at the end of Saw. However they have resorted to another, recently untapped genre of horror, the haunted house. A genre indeed that can inspire greatness (The Amityville Horror, House on Haunted Hill) and pure drek (The Haunting in Conneticut, House on Haunted Hill (remake). Insidious has the misfortune of falling somewhere in the middle.
The story revolves around ever busy teacher, Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) and his stay at home, composer wife Renai (Rose Byrne). They move home and their middle son, Dane goes exploring in an open attic. Uh-oh! Being a chap, he wears a cape and tries to scale a rickety ladder. He falls and the resulting wooden floor causes him to go into a coma. Then the fun starts!
Spooky noises come through the baby monitor, the bay is awaken by the noises. Shadows grow on the walls, the house goes bump in the night. And Dane’s room keeps getting mysteriously interfered with. This all happens in the first hour and is indeed the better half of the film by a mile. Wan incorporates some solid scares, with tried and tested jump reveals and clever camera work.
The terrors increase and Josh decides the best way to deal with a sick son and a terrified wife is to stay at school “marking papers.” So Renai calls in Josh’s mother, who in turn calls in a psychic investigator Elsie Rainer (Lin Shaye). It is a testament to the talent of Shaye that she delivers the plot twist and the reason for the strange goings on with such a level of seriousness. Not to give anything away, but the explanation wavers on the unintentionally hilarious.
The climax, which can be seen coming around 50 minutes into the movie, is handled like a bad 1980’s made for television horror film. No, that is not a good thing. Smoke. Check. Soft focus lens. Check. Noises. Check. The whole thing plays out like a bed dream and after a while feels like you’re being hit upside the head by a child on a bus. Annoying, but ultimately you’re powerless to stop it.
Overall, it is a film of two halves. The first half is spectacular, with a scare every eight to ten minutes. All of which, though obvious are handled beautifully by Wan. The script is also better in the first half, with the undercurrent of the weary wife begging the husband to do his duty and save his son. Wannell has improved as a writer, finally crafting well rounded characters.
However the second half veers into the science fiction / fantasy realm, and the power of the scares and tension in the house is moved and ultimately defused. The end is also overlong and could have been edited a bit tighter. That being said, the scares come thick and fast for the first hour and the talent of the cast, especially Shayle as the spirit-busting psychic save the second half from descending into a parody of itself.

3 / 5


Written by thepanch

May 14, 2011 at 8:04 am

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