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.