Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Reviewing a New American Horror Classic - Insidious


I wasn't sure what to expect when I rented James Wan's Insidious. Unlike Saw, and Death Sentence, Wan brings us a story that has a shake of the Exorcist and mixes it with Poltergeist, which brings us Insidious. Rose Byrne (Sunshine28 Weeks Later) and Patrick Wison (WatchmenThe A-Team) are the Lamberts, Renai, and Josh. They are the young parents of Dalton (Ty Simpkins), Foster (Andrew Astor), and their baby sister. The two preteen boys who find themselves relocated to a large creepy house with their parents. If you are looking for creepy, suspenseful, and scary then Insidious is for you..

According to Dictionary.com, the word insidious means "...operating or proceeding in an inconspicuous or seemingly harmless way but actually with grave effect." In the case of the Lambert family, the insidiousness starts out while young Dalton is snooping around in the attic. What is it they say about curiosity and feline creatures? Dalton falls off a ladder but isn't hurt at all, however, when he goes to sleep at night. However, his mom and dad find he doesn't wake up in the morning. No, he's not dead, just in a coma. The doctors, have no clue as to why Dalton has a sudden case of narcolepsy so they will keep in the hospital for a few months. Josh is a schoolteacher and I am sure that he cannot afford to have a kid in the hospital for more than a couple weeks at a time. Either way, three months later the hospital sends Dalton home and a nurse shows Renai how to care for her bedridden son. Renai is a stay at home mom and writes music as a hobby. During the day, as she goes through her routines she notices little inconsistences as things disappear around the house and show up elsewhere. Director Wan doesn't waste time in ramping up the weirdness and getting down to business of getting creepy. Strange noises on the baby's monitor that get weirder and louder freaking Renai out as she runs up to her daughter's room. Momentary shadows, flashes of images, all work in the director's advantage in giving Insidious a touch of the Exorcist, while at the same time giving the family and the audience a sense of Poltergeist. Other than the opening credits the film doesn't have much of a musical score up until now, just creaking doors, and vague whispers to work on your nerves. After Dalton's younger brother Foster, complains that he thinks the house is creepy and he is tired of his older brother walking around at night does Joseph Bishara's (The Gravedancers) insane, wild, demonic score begins to play. Wan uses Bishara's cacophony of eerie music to create an atmosphere of an old time creep show. It doesn't take long for Renai to say the obvious. The house is haunted. Something the families in Poltergeist and The Amityville Horror should have done right away.

In the new house, things are peaceful for only a short time. However, it is just the calm before the storm. Unlike the two films I just mentioned, the evil follows them. James Wan likes to keep the horror in the family so as the foreboding looms closer, enter Josh's mom played by none other than Barbara Hershey, the star of 1982's The Entity. I thought this was a deft casting move by the director. In the possession genre, there are two alternatives, possibly three if you count Ghostbusters, of counseling that you can get for matters like this. Most folks would consult with their parish priest, and Renai does, however, while talking with her mother in-law Lorraine (Hershey), she recommends a friend of hers, Elise (Lin Shaye - A Nightmare on Elm Street). A psychic, Elise works with two nerdy paranormal investigators by the names of Specs and Tucker. After the perfunctory examination of the house, and of Dalton, Elise gives us her diagnosis. The house isn't haunted but the child is. Another interesting concept that scriptwriter Leigh Whannell, who also plays the character Specs did, was to bring in the concept of Astral Projection. Apparently Dalton likes to take trips away from his body and like any other kid his age has a tendency to venture a bit too far. In doing so, he has left his body unattended (coma) leaving it exposed to the demons of the other dimension who want, crave, and desire his chance to live again in Dalton's body. Renai and the rest of the family are experiencing those entities.

What I liked about Insidious, and what I think you will like too, was that the director doesn't try to gross the audience out. Unlike his previous films, Wan implies a certain sense of foreboding and doom, yet leaves it up to his audience to allow their minds to race ahead and fill in the blanks. Like Lovecraft, Wan and Whannell move the story along in a minimalist fashion. Subtly and insidiously, secrets about certain characters come to light and in that light, certain horrors reveal themselves. For instance, Josh's mom, Lorraine, indicates that as a child, Josh too had a tendency to experience night terrors and coma like states. So much so, that Lorraine called upon Elise during Josh's childhood to help him with his issues. I also liked how Whannell brings together, religion, psychology, and science, while trying to find a cure to Dalton's coma, and healing a family in turmoil. I found Music Director's Bishara's musical score appropriately nerve wracking but not overpowering. Wan's use of minimalism in set design and the use of lighting, leaving shadows in place, which in turn leaves a question in our minds; what is lurking there in those shadows. When it comes down to it, Insidious delivers the goods when it comes to good old fashion creepiness and the film does unnerve the heck out of you. Taking the innocence of children like William Peter Blatty did with Regan in the Exorcist, and rip away that innocence and show it as something evil and unsavory. James Wan did an excellent job in bringing Whannell's script to life and brought out the best in the horror genre leaving out all the gore and not using the now over used "found footage" crap. In my book, Insidious, sits definitely between my copy of the Exorcist and The Omen.

Movie Data

Genre: Horror, Thriller
Year: 2012
Staring:Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, Lin Shaye, Ty Simpkins
Director:James Wan
Producer(s)Jason Blum,Oren Peli,Steven Schneider
Writer:Leigh Whannell
Rating: R

Running Time: 103 minutes
Release Date: 4/1/2010

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