INSIDIOUS Review

"Insidious" may easily be the best original horror film we have seen in a long while and maybe even the best scary movie we will see in theaters all year, but to go ahead and get it out there, I was disappointed in the last forty or so minutes of the film. Director James Wan, who made the first "Saw" movie and had very little if nothing at all to do with the other six films returns to the directors chair for a throwback to simple story, simple scares and a hauntingly gothic set of eyes through which we see this story told. "Insidious" doesn't try to be anything it is not, it doesn't attempt to appeal to anyone who isn't in the mood for some scares. In its first hour, it is truly chilling and haunting and then, sadly, it all goes to hell.


Wan photographs the film with a very sleek but gray coated palette, from the opening moments of the film we get a feel for the pacing and tone the movie intends to get at its audience with. It is slightly slow, but not boring. It is always with an air of cautiousness that we continue to stare at the screen and with a frightened hope that nothing truly terrible ever happens to this family we begin to follow. With Patrick Wilson, the classic good looks actor who you know you've seen in many things before but still may not know his name as well as Rose Byrne, in the leading roles we are immediately given a strong sense of normality. Byrne is a stay at home mother who is also some kind of songwriter and Wilson, as her husband, is a teacher that from the beginning gives us something to question about his character. The two older leads play up the scares and seem to enjoy this kind of method acting of putting themselves in an old Stoker-like film. They help to build the tension and they honestly help us to believe everything we are made to learn through the film, but even their committed performances can't sustain that final act.

The "hook" here is that it is a child that is haunted, not the house in which the family inhabits, but audiences have seen their fair share of possessed kid films and that isn't really what sets "Insidious" apart as a horror film. What sets the movie apart is that there is no gore, no easy gimmicks and with our horror films of late so heavily relying on those elements for scares it is refreshing to see a movie that simply makes you nervous watching it because everything about it is composed to make your skin crawl. In fact it is at around the point Lin Shaye's character shows up and begins giving explanation as to what is wrong with the child and that it has something to do with "Astral Projection" or something of the sort that we start to laugh at the film, that we begin to see the gimmicks peeping their heads out and that is about the time you should head for the door because after that great first hour of genuine scares you are now in for a pile of ridiculous.

I won't spoil anything or give any more details into how the film is resolved or even wonder why they left the ending open for what will no doubt be horrible and pointless sequels that will only diminish the credibility of the first half of this film even more. What I will point out though is that while the first half of the film allows us glimpses of these demons and creatures from the other side, the second half overloads us with them and we tire of seeing pale women and creepy old men dressed up in 1920's garb with blood covering them. It begins to look like a cheap haunted house you would visit on Halloween rather than the upscale scary movie you thought you were watching after the first hour of the film. It is such a sad fact to face, I wanted this to be a new stage for scary movies, but instead this will no doubt only be remembered for its stale final act, not the horrific family haunting we believed we had stumbled on after that first scare made us jump out of our seats.