A normal couple’s lives are turned upside down when their young son falls into a sleep he can’t awake from, a condition that no doctor can explain and one that worsens for the family as terrifying supernatural forces attempt to engulf them. Starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey and Lin Shaye, and directed by James Wan (Saw, Paranormal Activity)
Insidious gets under your skin. From the first frame to the last, it is relentless in it’s delivery. It becomes hard to focus on anything other than the sheer creepiness of it, which can be a positive and a negative. I came into the cinema really wanting to pay attention to the acting, pacing, timing and cinematography but instead I was holding my breathe and keeping my eyes wide open so I can’t really help you there. The acting was good for what was needed. The fear was believable, the indifference was plausible and neither annoying nor unjustified and the confusion was relevant. The characters didn’t annoy me, which is a great improvement on Paranormal Activity where I wanted to smack them both. Lets face it people you knew we would compare the two.
Paranormal Activity and Insidious are completely different. Different in tone, theme and over all atmosphere. Even with P.A being a “Found Footage” film Insidious felt a lot more real to me, because I cared. That is the key difference between a fun horror film and an effective horror film; the fear derives from knowing what will happen but caring enough to not want it to. Although you have some pretty recognizable actors in this picture (Byrne, Hershey, Wilson) your disbelief is suspended because you are completely engaged with what is happening on screen (and just so you know not to let the poster fool you, this is not a “creepy kid film”). There was some horror movie veterans on screen as well in Lin Shaye and Barbara Hershey, the latter starring in her own ghost story “ The Entity”, which was equally as unsettling, it was a nice nod to the genre.
Insidious almost seemed like it knew exactly what creeps you out. Like the producers researched all those little things that make you uneasy and slammed them into one picture, it becomes an assault on the senses. I would hate to think that we could become desensitised to that kind of technique, but cinema has been using psychological warfare on their audience to traumatize them since the 20s and it will never go away. The film is impossibly darkly lit, all areas even in daytime seem to be washed out and dull and you never once feel that daytime is any more than a couple of minutes. I understand that the majority of the tension happens at night but it would have been nice to have a comparison between the normal and the eerie, to let us see exactly what was at stake before the supernatural poop hit the fan.
All I can say about Insidious is that it is a brave picture, you go through it with familiar ideas in mind and although the movie may be predictable the outcomes are still the ones you least expect. It reminded me of the nightmares that I had when I was a kid and that may be what unsettled me the most. Insidious never felt gratuitous but it was chaotic and frantic, an assault on your sanity and a reminder that nothing that begins in the dark ends well for you.
I Give Insidious 3 and a half stars out of 5 (don’t see it alone and don’t show your kids)