Insidious. Director James Wan /Writer Leigh Whannell
Reviewed by Benedict Kendall-Carpenter
A horror film without gore? From the creator's of SAW? Horror fans will need no introduction to creative duo James Wan and Leigh Whannell. For their latest offering they've changed gears ' gone are the elaborate 'traps' and tortures of SAW and in their place something a little more subtle, a little more atmospheric, a little more, dare I say it, insidious. Insidious is, broadly speaking, a haunted house film ' albeit the film's tagline proclaims 'It's not the house that's haunted'' but more on that later.
Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) and his wife Renai (Rose Byrne), along with their three children, have moved into a new house. Everything seems rosy, idyllic even, though their happiness isn't destined to last long. Things start to go wrong when one of the couple's sons, Dalton (Ty Simpkins) hears noises in the attic. He goes to investigate. The tension builds. He climbs a rotten stepladder to turn on the light. The tension mounts. He reaches for the light switch ' and, as the viewer, and no doubt reader has already guessed, he falls. He screams and his parents run to help. He's upset and had a minor bump on the head, but he looks like he'll be all right and they tuck him into bed. Only, he doesn't wake up. They take him to hospital ' the doctors are baffled ' he's in a coma ' they can't explain why. And the film begins proper.
For the next thirty minutes the film is good, very good ' genuine edge of the seat, look through your fingers stuff ' make no mistake it will get you. The hauntings escalate and the family moves house. However, the hauntings follow them ' everything's set for a truly memorable film. But a ridiculous plot soon intrudes. It turns out that Dalton is an 'astral traveller'. When he sleeps he goes to a parallel world of spirit called 'The Further' (which was the film's original title) and while exploring this world he's attracted the attention of some rather nasty so-and-so's ' it isn't the house that's haunted, it's the kid (Poltergeist anyone?). Cue the intervention of a psychic and two poorly placed and desperately unfunny paranormal investigators (one of which is the film's writer).
I don't understand mixing horror and humour ' they're like oil and water ' they just don't mix. Wan and Whannell attempted this humour/horror thing in the terrible Dead Silence ' a film that could have been scary (ventriloquists and their dolls are, for me, deeply disturbing). Anyway back to Insidious: the psychic discovers where Dalton's 'soul' (yawn) is trapped. Dalton's dad, who we now learn was also an astral traveller in his childhood, travels to The Further and rescues Dalton from the clutches of a creature that had been scary but isn't anymore (in fact when you finally get a good look at him you realise he looks like he's related to Darth Maul). That's more or less it, though there is a particularly lame 'twist' (you see it coming a mile off). The thrills and chills had ended forty minutes ago.
The acid test for any horror is whether or not it is scary ' and Insidious delivers for the first hour; sadly it can't sustain the tension and terror and the film dwindles and eventually disintegrates. For this haunted house, it's a case of rent, don't buy. [...]