April 6, 2011

Movie Review: Insidious

I do not recall exactly when I first heard about Insidious, but I do recall a lot of positive early buzz surrounding it, and why shouldn't there be? After all, it does feature the return of Saw's founding fathers, director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell, working together for the first time since 2007's Dead Silence. After those initial reports I sort of lost track of the movie making the run up to it's release last weekend something of a surprise. A happy surprise, but a surprise nonetheless. The trailers painted an intriguing picture with all it's talk of "Insidious is insidious."

As much as I was looking forward to the movie I must admit to having had some concerns over the PG-13 rating. I mean, it is not exactly a welcome rating among the horror community. With that being true, it is not impossible to have a good horror film with that rating. The problem is that with the PG-13 rating you usually have compromise, give up some of the extreme stuff in the hopes of reaching a wider audience. Fortunately, in the case Insidious the filmmakers made the movie the wanted and i just happened to be a PG-13. No compromise here, although I am still expecting some sort of director's or extended cut.

As for the movie itself, Insidious is indeed, well, insidious. The movie is seemingly harmless but grows increasingly treacherous. It is haunted house horror movie constructed from familiar bits of other films but crafted, worked, and molded into something fresh and new. James Wan's film relies on the repeated build of tension resulting in something of a jump scare release, not unlike a theme park attraction, be it a haunted house or roller coaster. It is more scary by implication than by what you see.

As the movie opens, we are introduced to the Lambert family as they move into a new house. Before they are even unpacked strange things begin to happen, mostly witnessed by Renais (Rose Byrne). Items are found in different places, strange noises are heard, all types of things we as horror fans know to stay away from, too bad Renais is in a different reality and doesn't know she is in a horror movie. Soon enough one of their boys, Dalton, has fallen into a bizarre coma-like state that doctors are a a loss to explain.

Now this is where things begin to get rough for the family. Renais starts seeing more things as the paranormal activity starts to become more pronounced. Her husband, Josh (Patrick Wilson), is avenge a hard time coming to grips with it and it takes a toll on their relationship. A psychic and her assistants are brought in and.... Well, I think it may just be better to go and see the movie, something I very much recommend.

Insidious is all about tone and feel, whatever story there is is incidental, a by product of creating that haunted mansion atmosphere. Don't get me wrong, the story is there, but this movie is all about the ride, the curiosity of what lay just around the corner.

In all seriousness, Insidious feels like Poltergeist if it were made in Japan. It is not quite as gonzo as Hausu, but it is certainly headed in that direction. Toss in some touches of Paranormal Activity and there you have it. Insidious really has some of those Japanese touches, where once trapped in the haunting, there is little hope of escape.

James Wan is a skilled director and this proves to be another nice outing. This is movie not without is dose of cheese but it is all on purpose, calculated and well executed. Insidious is not without it's scares, but it is the up and down ride that makes it satisfying. It builds, builds, builds, gives a jump and then resets the counter. Wan paces it well and I was there for every minute of it. Not to be forgotten is Leigh Whannell who has partnered well with Wan over the years. His screenplay is funny, fun, and effective in it's scare tactics.

The performances won't win any awards but they are all good in the familiar haunted house movie roles. Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne are a believable couple struggling to cope with their son's coma as well as the vary haunting. Lin Shaye is great as the psychic, she is a lot of fun in this role. Oh yes, you cannot forget about the Geek Squad ghost busting duo of Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson serving as comedic relief and as Lin Shaye's assistants.

Not sure what else to say. The deeper into the movie you get the crazier it gets, sometimes scary, sometimes funny, always a little off kilter. Effective, fun, and certainly a ride I would like to take again.

Highly Recommended.

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