Thursday, September 22, 2011

Insidious ***

Director: James Wan
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, Lynn Shaye
Ty Simpkins, Leigh Whannell, Andrew Astor, Angus Sampson

Perhaps inspired by Sam Raimi's recent attempt of reviving the scream and laugh-fest with his brilliant Drag Me to Hell, screenwriter Leigh Whanell and director James Wan have come up with a worthy entry to a genre that more often than not fails to satisfy. Insidious is a joyful ride of a movie that carries its "horror movie" badge with honor, announcing its camp from the instant the title appears.
Teasing us with the promise of haunting our nightmares for a couple of days after we're done watching it, the film cleverly sets its story in that most familiar of devices: the haunted house.
We meet the lovely Lambert family as they move into their new house; schoolteacher Josh (Wilson), his wife Renai (Byrne) and their adorable children are barely settling in when we get the spooky music, the wandering camera and an eventual flash of a ghost or two.
When their son Dalton (Simpkins) falls into a mysterious coma, the family is forced to move, only to realize that the demons and ghouls won't stop following them because they're not after a house, they're after their child's soul.
With this, essentially simple, premise the film turns into a truly delightful experience in which you're always conscious that something is seconds away from making you jump from your seat. It's this complicity with the audience that makes Insidious such a success. The film's friendly approach still gives you enough mystery and mood to make you feel like an active participant. This is boosted by the performers, particularly Byrne who owns up the scream-queen persona, getting rid of her usual onscreen arrogance. Shaye as a strange exorcist is a sight to behold (as are Sampson and Whannell as her unorthodox assistants) with Wilson using his reliable stoicism to turn in a surprisingly moving turn.
With all its intentional DIY scares and its constant, but self aware, use of homage, Insidious is the kind of movie that sneaks up behind you. Even if you'd like to think of it as a forgettable, cheap horror flick, you'll find yourself being haunted by its unusual sincerity days after watching it. 

3 comments:

Candice Frederick said...

i thought this was certainly one of the better ones. not made cheaply at all.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Rose doesn't quite eschew her general coldness for me, but it works for her (and Wilson, who remind me of each other in their acting styles). It's that same vague frigidity that makes me really pity the characters.

And Barbara's bit role - absolute perfection.

Luke said...

Loved this movie. Unabashedly. Glad you were willing to offer it up three stars. Drag Me To Hell is sheer genius, and this is a very admirable fellow for sure. I love that the PG-13 horror flicks lately are so much scarier than the stupidly gruesome R-rated ones. Let's bring back the slow-fuse thriller and the eerie fright-fests! (Also, Tiny TIm was creepy enough before - must we make it even worse with the crackling record player and the quick cuts to porcelain dolls?)