A family move into a new home but after an accident in the loft their eldest son is left in a coma. The doctors are at a loss to explain his refusal to wake up. According to the scans there is no physical reason. They take him home but gradually realise that something is desperately wrong. Spooky events pick up and the family notice in the usual horror film order - kids, mother and finally the dad - that the problem is supernatural. The question is - how do they solve it?
Insidious is the work of director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell (who also acts in the movie). You may recognize the names - they are the same men responsible for the original Saw film. Wan is a skilled director and he always produces stylish work, but he nails a whole new level of suspense and tension here. This is genuinely gripping at times and you'll find yourself clenching your fists and grinding your teeth as you anxiously await the next scare. It does fall prey to genre clichés and the odd loud noise scare as a ghost materializes out of nowhere, but because it is so well crafted you can forgive the failings.
The backstory and the character and plot development are much the same as the direction. There are very strong elements at work and some genuinely creepy ideas but there's no denying the clichéd nature of much of the material. There are also some obvious strong influences, most notably Poltergeist. In essence the set up here is very similar, especially the final act. It also has shades of more recent successful horrors such as Paranormal Activity. If you liked those movies then it's a safe bet you'll like Insidious.
One of the most refreshing things about the film is the complete lack of gore. You might expect the Saw track record would make a splatterfest inevitable but that's not the case at all. The film goes for atmosphere and classic spooky ghost story ideas to create that shiver down your spine and it works. Visually the ghosts are impressive and the animation and classic crooked smiles are chilling. The demon character is initially scary but over exposure detracts from that impression.
The cast is well chosen. Wilson does the job as the tired, school teacher, keen to avoid confrontation and Byrne nails the knackered, end of her tether, mother of three with career on hold. The supporting cast are good too, Hershey adds something as the mother with a secret and Shaye does well with a tricky role.
This is one of the best horror films of recent years because it genuinely has a go at scaring the audience and it employs various techniques to get you on the edge of your seat. The blend of classic horror ideas and scares with some contemporary twists and a good strong visual style that doesn't over rely on CG is really enjoyable. This could have the same effect on a youngster today as Poltergeist had on me when I was growing up - a few sleepless nights and an irresistible urge to watch more horror. That can't be a bad thing.Short Review
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