Insidious Directed by: James Wan Cast: Rose Byrne, Patrick Wilson, Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Ty Simpkins Running Time: 1 hr 42 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: April 1, 2011
PLOT: A family's (Byrne, Wilson) house becomes haunted when one of the young sons (Simpkins) is trapped in a coma.
WHO'S IT FOR?: The same weekend horror movie crowd that can be patient with slow dread that eventually bursts with interactions with the supernatural. Basically, the Paranormal Activity crowd, but with lower expectations.
EXPECTATIONS: I knew little about this movie except for who its creators were. Was it going to be gory, or even actually scary? How many fake jump scares would it use?
Rose Byrne as Renai Lambert: She portrays her fear slightly better than Wilson, but this stay-at-home mom is still trapped by some flat character construction. Though she might be the main character of Insidious, she's upstaged by those around her, especially when it comes to being a particularly memorable part of the story. Because of this, her anguish in the stressful moments of Insidious does not translate well to a hopefully terrified audience. Score: 4
Patrick Wilson as Josh Lambert: He's the working dad and somewhat selfish, yet amicable husband. Regardless of what we find out about him in the third act, it's a dull character that Wilson isn't able to add any color besides gray to. One might even say that his character takes a turn for the goofy, even though the story considers such a direction to be both heroic and spooky. Score: 3
Rest of Cast: Creepy older lady Lin Shaye offers a slightly weird performance as a know-it-all of the subject spirits, even though we don't fully understand why this person is so adept at understanding the specific supernatural elements going on in Insidious. Still, she owns the second act, and is continually intense throughout. Writer Leigh Whannell is one half of a "supernatural-busters" duo that loses its comedic angle fairly quickly, and actually becomes something to take seriously. Score: 4
TALKING: Characters can be pretty slow at divulging important information to one another. The worst offender of this is Barbara Hershey's character, who shares what she knows about the situation in frustratingly random nugget bits, instead of just telling the crew everything, as a logical person would hopefully do in real life. This is irritating, especially as it downgrades the IQ level of a movie called Insidious. Score: 4
SIGHTS: Slick camerawork is used throughout, but it's never too polished. Tilted angles of hallways and darkened corridors are expertly used to provide a sense of disorder. Insidious also packs something that feels relatively a rare in today's fright fests - a daytime scare or two. (But if you've seen the trailer, they've probably been spoiled.) While the cinematography may be smooth, it makes the locations of the film look creepy like a set, and not like an actual haunted house. Score: 5
SOUNDS: Creaky doors and floors seem to make up a large chunk of Insidious' sound design. Shrill strings are used throughout the terror of the film, especially in the bombastic title bookends. The clamorous score is classically eerie, loud, and most of all chaotic. It’s a nice, very welcomed retro touch. Insidious proves right off that bat that more horror scores should be like this. Score: 6
BEST SCENE: Insidious' best scare is probably during the baby monitor scene, with the simple but malevolent, resonating scream of: "I want it ... NOW!"
ENDING: Not exactly picture perfect, but still leaves some doors open.
REWATCHABILITY: A second viewing might be worth it just to see how a different audience reacts to the film. Overall, the scares in the movie feel very one-and-done. Now, for me they'd only serve to scare others, if at all.
With the many different paths that it guides its story, it’s rather unfortunate that the thrills of Insidious start to feel generally expected, especially as it dives into its unique-by-concept third act. It’s only so long until creaky floorboards and boogeymen lose their scariness with an audience, especially when it’s truly revealed to be a set’s smoke and mirrors (or a goofy monster or two). Insidious has a pride of doing things slightly different with story, but the same can't be said about the scares.
Insidious exorcises itself of being something to fear when it runs out of scare tactics, and when it makes the audience confront the odd creatures face to face. For a story difficult to describe without spoiling any of the good stuff, it becomes old hat. Hoping to possess the audience with fear, Insidious instead loses to boredom.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10