There are going to be a lot of people out there who will tell you that Insidious falls back on a lot of basic horror tropes and clichés. While it can be true, this is a film that is filled with pure terror and some of the most effective jumpscares I’ve seen in a modern horror film.
James Wan (Saw franchise, The Conjuring franchise) took the directing helm for this film and was looking to make a successful return after both Dead Silence and Death Sentence were met with negative reviews. The film stars an outstanding cast of Rose Byrne, Patrick Wilson, Ty Simpkins and Lin Shaye.
The movie revolves around Dalton Lambert (Simpkins) who inexplicably falls into a coma that lasts over three months. Doctors can’t find any explanation and there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with him on the surface. From there on, we see the family fall into a state of grief and depression as both Josh (Wilson) and Renai’s (Byrne) minds deteriorate from their son not being able to communicate with them for this elongated period of time.
Not only do I love the horror in this film but I love the dynamic and chemistry between Byrne and Wilson. You feel for these characters because they don’t have any answers as to why their son has been in a coma for a quarter of the year. It only gets worse for the family as these supernatural entities begin haunting them and taking advantage of their vulnerability.
The film completely picks up for me when Elise Rainer (Shaye) enters the house and begins to explain what happened to Dalton and where these entities came from. The idea of astral projection and how its portrayed here is genius. Dalton has a gift of traveling to this dimension while he’s sleeping but he thinks they are just dreams so these demons trap him in a dark place called “The Further” in an attempt to possess his body. I love that. It also led to a pretty interesting conversation I had with my roommate about dreams and what they actually are.
While this film’s worst aspects come in the form of predictable jump scares, loud noises and some pretty poor CGI with the main demon, there are strokes of brilliance in the horror. The scene with the dancing boy is one of the most unsettling moments I’ve watched in a horror film. At first, you see him in the corner of a tracking shot following Renai and then while she is outside, Tiny Tim’s “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” plays and from Renai’s point of view, you see the boy dancing to the song from far away.
You can’t overlook the music here from Joseph Bishara. The most clichéd horror music is the incredibly loud burst of horns for a scare. However, that’s not the case for most of the movie. There are these eerie, scratchy violins and disorienting piano bangs that make a scene even more terrifying than it already is. Toward the end of the film, there is one scene with Leigh Whannell (yes, acting) where he is walking around the house searching and we are left with dead silence. No music playing. No natural sound. Just pure guessing and tension on when that scare happens but we keep waiting and waiting and waiting, which has to come from someone who truly wants to terrify us.
Wan did exactly that and even seeing this movie previously, I had to sleep with the Weather Channel on.
15 down, 16 to go.