I’m sorry that I waited so long to get in on the Insidious craze. I happen to fall outside of the core demographic that the film’s marketing department were advertising to. I’m not a fan of Saw, and I’m even less of a fan of Paranormal Activity. However, I do recognize the talent possessed by director James Wan, especially after seeing his revenge flick, “Death Sentence”, so I decided to give it a watch on $5.00 Tuesday here at our local theater. Little did I know that this little film contained scenes that made even a seasoned horror veteran like myself feel uncomfortable about being in the dark.
Insidious follows the Lambert family as they move in to a new house. Things bump and creak in the night, as they always do, but Renai(Rose Byrne), the mother of the household starts to notice odd things occurring. A box of sheet music disappeared, and then turned back up in the attic, strange whispers, it’s nothing major to witness as a viewer, but it’s enough to alarm Renai to the fact that something is just not right. One of Renai’s sons, Dalton(Ty Simpkons) takes a minor hit to the head while snooping around in the attic, he slips into what can only be explained as a coma, despite medical professionals finding no trauma what soever to the child’s brain. This is when the creepy, unexplained phenomena within the house begins to escalate to a boiling point. Perhaps it’s time for the Lambert’s to find, yet another home?
Generally, the “haunt” sub-genre of films is a big turn-off for me. As far as I’ve seen, it hasn’t been done effectively for decades, and we were beaten to death with this genre in the ’70s and ’80s after the surprise success of such films as Poltergeist, The Shining, Amityville, etc. When a new horror flick comes out, there’s always at least one person that asks me whether or not the film was “scary”. I generally chuckle at the question, because I’m a 33 year old man, what, in a fictional film could possibly scare me? Even beyond that, as long running as the horror genre is, is there anything that could scare even casual movie-goers? It’s 2011, almost 2012, with technology as progressed as it has become, even children are exposed to some of the most vile shit on the planet, so what could a PG-13 horror flick do to scare anyone? Insidious is the return of the “scary movie”. Everything that made haunted houses scary when we were kids has not only been utilized, but done so in such an effective manner that it managed to give me the heebie jeebies on several occasions.
The first two thirds of “Insidious” is pure tension, without gimmick. Most horror films today leave you bored between kill scenes, wondering when the next bludgeoning will begin. James Wan’s newest had me squirming in my seat in discomfort. It’s not gory in any way, nor is it disgusting, it just utilizes sounds, shadows, jump scares, and ominous figures to their fullest potential. The soundtrack plays a key role in the overall experience. This is one of the few films I’ve seen as of late where the experience might actually be diminished by home video. Even on Blu-Ray with an amazing sound system, I don’t think you’ll be able to re-create the full effect of the film. Don’t get me wrong, you should still check it out when it hits disc if you’re unable to make it out to the cinema, I’m just warning you that it’s not going to have an identical impact.
Sounds amazing right? Hang on just a second, it’s not all aces. The final act of the film is going to split the viewing audience. The aforementioned tension comes to a screeching halt towards the ending of the film. Just when you think you absolutely can’t take any more, we’re introduced to an element of comic relief that was not present throughout the rest of the film. I’m not going to say much about the ending, because I want to encourage people to see this film, and I don’t want to be a douche and ruin their experience.
Suffice it to say, it ends up going in a completely different direction than you will think. It will work for some, and it will turn others off. It’s definitely unconventional, and even if you have a problem with where it goes, you have to at least give kudos for trying something different. Strangely, whatever beef I had with the ending of the film, it didn’t ruin it for me. I may even warm up to the ending upon further viewings. If not though, I have to give credit where credit is due, James Wan brought scary back to the cinema, and did so without using cheap gimmicks, cheesy CGI gore for the sake of gore, and even under the constraints of a PG-13 rating. If you’re a person that has been missing that element of fear in modern horror, you may have found the remedy.