This is the labeling the 102 minute Insidious will receive from audiences and my fellow critics. As for this guy’s initial reaction, this flick is packaged as a cinematic version of a Paranormal Activity. Which is logical, since producer Oren Peli is attached to this product as well. The difference being, this one brings more to the table – in a visual sense – despite the predictable nature of the story as a whole.
Upon moving into a new house (predictable already), Renai Lambert (Rose Byrne) starts to hear and see things. Books are knocked off the shelves and weird noises are coming through the baby monitor. Things begin to escalate after her 8 year-old son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) falls into a strange coma. Doctors have no answer, and the little guy remains in this dormant state for months. During this time, Renai is seeing ghostly figures around the house. When she expresses concerns to her husband Josh (Patrick Wilson), he has trouble coming to grips with her accounts of these haunting entities. Yet, he bites, and moves the family to a new home.
As Renai and Josh go through the moving in process again, Dalton is still hooked up machines in his bedroom. Within a matter of days of getting settled into the new digs, Renai’s supernatural friends are back rummaging through the house. Eventually, Josh starts to experience these terrors as well. His mother (Barbara Hershey) intervenes and suggests a long-time friend to help the couple in Lin Shaye (Elise Rainer). What she reveals to the couple, after inspecting the home with her wannabe Ghostbusters, Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), is that it’s not the house, it’s Dalton.
Now although that last sentence may be a spoiler, one should pick up on this before the first act ends. As mentioned, the story follows the pattern of many spook-shows found in the genre. The first half of the flick you’ll be feeling Paranormal Activity served with an obvious dose of Amityville Horror. Second half ushers in a more polished Poltergeist angle, complete with a “follow my voice” sequence. And there is the occasional Drag Me to Hell vibe, sans the goofiness, spread throughout. Factoring in all that, and then seeing the PG-13 rating, as a horror fan, you should be worried that this could end up doing absolutely zilch.
But that’s not the case my friends. Insidious will bring out the chills and encompass enough tense moments – mainly when characters explore the house – to make this a worthy haunted tale. By actually showing the non-CGI ghosts and using the whole smoke-n-mirror tactics (loud noises, doors creeping open, crescendo of sound effects, etc), the feature will more than likely please fans of both the hand-held camera ghost products and the ones who take pleasure in a produced technical piece.
Even though this feature has a budget, the way the smooth camera follows the characters puts the viewer in their shoes. This may be obvious, but when they experience a “scary” moment, so do you. They did a solid job of not telegraphing when the ghoul will appear, enabling the audience to feel as if they’re cautiously going through a live haunted house. In fact, this is one of the best haunted house tales in years. Sure the story is lacking in the creativity department, but the timing and pacing of how it was delivered kept this working and therefore, the audience remains interested and tense.
I tend to avoid commenting on acting in a horror flick. It’s pretty much an oxymoron. But the cast here did alright and took their roles seriously. They do become victims of the script at times, which led them to wander into the typical horror movie clichés. For the most part though, these said moments are negligible.
Overall, Insidious is an exceptional haunting journey. By introducing a few innovative ways in executing a scare, the flick will actually have the audience thinking, “Please don’t go in there” as the characters move about. Which is a quality all horror products should strive for.
RATING: 4 out of 5