Directed by James Wan
Written by Leigh Whannell
In 2004 director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell introduced the world to their surprise indie hit Saw, which unexpectedly launched a new wave of horror films and has also managed to spawn many sequels since. Despite the fact that Wan’s follow-up studio films, Dead Silence and Death Sentence, did not receive the same critical praise as his debut film did, Wan and Whannell have demonstrated with their latest entry that they are forces be reckoned with as Insidious proves that it this year’s strongest horror hit.
The film begins with Josh and Renai (respectively played by Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne), a married couple, struggling with normal martial problems as they move into an old Victorian home with their three children. After a few days Renai notices there is something not quite right with the new house, and after their son, Dalton (Simpkins), falls into a mysterious coma, it becomes evident there might be something sinister and insidious lurking in the family’s new home. Creaking doors, nail-biting tension and popcorn-choking moments ensue.
Although reviewers are notorious for throwing around cheap and self-promoting blurbs such as “this film is a must see” or “this is the best horror film seen in years,” Insidious is one of the rare cases in which every triumphant statement is in fact valid because it is truly an intense film that will be known by many as this generation’s Poltergeist.
Insidious starts off with a bang as Wan shows his skillful eye behind the camera as he sets in motion many creepy setpieces early on in the film. Considering the young director has had the reputation of being the catalyst to “torture porn,” it is satisfying to see Wan prove to critics that a creaking door can be just as frightening as a man holding a bloody knife. Many moments scream with innovation; yet, the film is able to respectfully pay homage to well-respected horror filmmakers as well. There are subtle nods to Poltergeist, Amityville Horror and The Entity, and Wan’s style of directing is reminiscent of early Brian De Palma, most particularly De Palma’s 1980 thriller Dressed to Kill.
Writer/actor Whannell also offers his own unique spin to the haunted house story as he takes something seen time and time again and reinvents the entire sub-genre by simply writing the script from a horror fan’s point of view. It is astonishing to say, but Whannell has expertly made sure that the film avoids any horror clichés whatsoever. Every jumper in the film is a genuine scare. There are no cats jumping out of closets or characters jumping out their skin from just a simple tap on the shoulder from their spouse. Also, when something scary happens, it’s not always at night. Most importantly, this film makes sure the characters do what the audience would usually be shouting out at them to do in older horror classics. People will cheer for the family’s decision early on in the film. (Not that it really helps them out anyway, but that’s beside the point.)
The cast is full of A-list talent. Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson give great performances as the good-looking and terrified couple. Barbara Hershey and Lin Shaye also make fine additions, but it is the ghost exterminators Specs and Tucker (played by Whannell and real-life best friend Angus Sampson) that will really win over audiences with their humorous performances that will remind many of John Goodman’s performance in Arachnophobia.
Even though many critics are spoiling the twist about this film, it would be a disservice to reveal anything more because all anybody should know is that it starts off as a typical haunted house film and becomes something far more “insidious” after that. It’s best to go into this supernatural chiller knowing as little as possible.
Insidious is everything the title promises it will be and then some. This film will most likely redefine Wan and Whannell’s image and the horror genre itself. It is for the young, the old, the stoned and the true fans of the genre. Make sure to catch Insidious when you can!
5 out of 5
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