Editor’s note: This review was first published April 1, 2011.
‘Insidious’ scares you senseless until last third of movie
UPDATED – Suspense, that slow, agonizing build up, often proves more frightening than the actual act that’s supposed to scare us. It’s the sense of the unknown, while being acutely aware that something wicked this way comes. You hold your breath because it’s obvious some slithering nightmare is lurking around the corner, eagerly waiting to pounce. However, this suspenseful build-up can set you up for a mighty fall, and you can be left feeling the crescendo wasn’t worth the wait. And that’s no truer than with Hollywood’s newest horror flick, “Insidious.” While equal measures scintillating and enigmatic for the first two-thirds of the movie, “Insidious” falls completely flat in the last act, leaving you flummoxed and a little disappointed.
“Insidious,” a “Poltergeist”-style remake by James Wan (“Saw” movies), opens with the Lambert family moving into their new home. Father Josh (Patrick Wilson, “Hard Candy”) and mother Renai (Rose Byrne, “28 Weeks Later”), along with their two young sons and infant daughter, are acclimating to their new, beautiful, older home when odd occurrences start happening. At first, it goes unchallenged, but when a son, Dalton (Ty Simpkins), falls into a mysterious coma-like state, the magnitude of the situation becomes apparent. The family soon vacates the home, believing it to be haunted. But their troubles just hop along for the ride. This realization leads to another epiphany: It’s not the house that was haunted, it’s Dalton. Explanations and other-worldly adventures follow as Dalton’s parents fight to save their son from a demonic entity, summoning priests, psychics and two sad meshuggeners trying to be ghostbusters to aid them in their increasingly hopeless endeavor.
And while you may be hooked into the storyline at first, it doesn’t stay that way for long. The director skillfully merges suspense, horror and action to create an almost palpable sense of foreboding that blankets you. But somewhere along the way, the creativity and intelligence that permeated the movie seem to get possessed themselves, fall off the deep end and become ancillary to the whims of the modern horror genre.
This deterioration quickly unravels all the work the director, writer Leigh Whannell (“Saw” movies) and main actors had put into the majority of the movie. And there definitely was some good work going on there. Wilson and Byrne are great in their roles as embattled parents trying to save their son, and Whannell goes a long way in redeeming his mantra of “blood + guts = horror” by showing that a lack of gore can be scarier than a blood-drenched scene. And while the music was a bit overwhelming at times, it often proved to be the scariest part of the scene.
But no matter how terrified you are, it’s hard not to be bored when the action refocuses to a sit-down discussion in the living room with words like “astral projection” and “readings” being thrown around. But it gets worse, especially when demons start materializing in full form. It’s a shame rivaling the appearance of little green men in “Signs.”
All in all, “Insidious” goes a long way in living up to its name, but it sadly falls short at the worst possible time. Whatever happened during production, it’s obvious any sort of truncating, better writing or better editing would have gone a long way. That’s not to say “Insidious” isn’t creepy. It is. But it’s hard to take anything serious when the main antagonist is called the Lipstick-Face Demon.
Three insidious stars out of five.