Insidious is terrifying in a completely different way than most horror movies. While the genre continues to creep toward exorcisms, thrill killers and the mentally deranged. It’s not out to scare viewers as much as it is to creep them out. The Lambert’s have just moved into a new house. Renai quit her job to focus on music and raise the kids, but the latter is proving to be more time-consuming than expected. There’s boxes to unpack, a baby who won’t stop crying and a husband who’s becoming increasingly distant.
Josh assures her nothing’s wrong, but something feels off. She knows it. She just can’t put her finger on what. Unfortunately, that proof comes by way of a terrible accident. Oldest son Dalton goes exploring in the attic and lands on his head. Apart from a few bumps and bruises, he initially seems fine but fails to wake up the following morning. He’s rushed to the hospital where the puzzled doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong.
He’s not in a coma. He just won’t wake up. Renai wakes up all the time. Anonymous eyes seem to be upon her. Something is inside the house.
It’s sporadic at first, but after Dalton, still in his non-coma, is moved back home, the strange incidents start becoming more noticeable. Doors open in the middle of the night, alarms go off and there’s weird whisperings on the baby monitor. Tired, scared and fed up, the Lambert’s once again move to a new house, but their exodus only makes things worse. Bloody handprints are found on Dalton’s bed and faces appear in the windows almost nightly. After Josh’s mother witnesses a horrifying red-faced figure herself, she recommends the couple phone her old friend Elise.
In preparation for her visit, Elise sends a two-man team of demon hunters to inspect the authenticity of the haunting claim. Scanning the ceilings for poisonous fumes to weed out the hallucinators and yelling at Josh for taking action figures out of their boxes, the Mutt and Jeff pair serve as a strange and wonderful precursor to their boss, who over-emphatically concludes there’s an epic problem at hand. Dalton is an astraltraveler. He leaves his body at night to voyage into the further, a sketchy realm where dead souls congregate, reliving horrors and coaxing the living into abandoning their Earthly bodies.
There, he’s been taken prisoner by a devil-looking psychopath who climbs walls, listens to old wind-up music and wants to inhabit his body to embark on a murderous rampage. What makes the film work are the characters, the setting, the atmosphere and the really nice build-up of suspense and drama. Patrick Wilson is adequate as the troubled father and Rose Byrne is excellent as wife Renai. The film loses it’s edge in the second half as Wilson takes the helm, Byrne is the stronger of the two but is left with little to do or say and the weight of the film suffers as a result.
The small cast works well and credit should go to Lin Shaye as the medium. Joseph Bishara’s music score is exceptionally creepy and the lighting, make-up of the ghostly faces is enough to give some nightmares. What works well is that while there are computer generated shots, they are well designed and hardly a distracting. All in all, Insidious is not for everyone, but I highly recommend you to check it out. In five years, if I’m flipping channels and see any twenty second excerpt from this film, I guarantee I won’t need the guide to tell me I’m watching Insidious. Not many movies can say that.