Movie poster for Insidious

Movie poster for Insidious

From the director and writing of the original Saw film, James Wan, who also had a hand in every other Saw movie since, comes a much less gruesome but still stays within the realm of horror/thriller called Insidious.  The film opens up with very classic-movie images for the opening credits that probably try to aim for some sort of a Psycho-esque feel. A nice touch. Definitely convincing and a hopeful sign that the film might be up to par with what would make a modern day horror classic.

Immediately it feels like a paint-by-numbers thriller with a family moving into a new house. The beginning of the movie focuses on Josh (Patrick Wilson), Renai (Rose Byrne) and their two sons, Dalton (Ty Simpkins) and Foster (Andrew Astor), and baby daughter, unpacking boxes and moving furniture around. Josh is a high-school teacher and spends most of his day at the school while Renai is a stay-at-home mom who also writes songs and plays piano while she can. The foundation is placed down during the first 40 minutes or so until Dalton falls off of a ladder while exploring in the attic. While everything seems fine, the next morning he never wakes up and is rushed to the emergency room where he is deemed to be in a coma but as such like nothing the doctor had ever seen before. After three months, while still in this unexplained coma, he is brought home to be cared for there.  It is now when things start to get weird for the family. House alarms going off at night, voices, faces, doors opening and closing.

At this point, Renai insists they move on account of her not liking the house and feeling it is haunted. So they move to a new house, but the hauntings follow them. So in the typical fashion, Renai feels aimless and calls in a priest to get some guidance. After the priest, Josh’s mother (Chelsea Taveres) invites an old friend of hers, Elise (Lin Shaye), and a team of investigators (played by Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson) to determine what’s causing these unexplained events. After some readings and discussions, it’s discovered that the cause of the unexplained is because of the son, Dalton, and that he’s not in a coma but has the ability of astral projection and because of this, his out-of-body traveling has gone beyond the safe distance that is customary and has essentially become lost and unable to find his way back to his body. The unexplained events are caused by other beings knowing this and are attempting to take over the lifeless vessel that his body has become. And, again, as expected, being the supportive, unsupportive husband that he has to be, Josh is in disbelief and tells them to leave…only to change his mind soon-after.

The film sets up this explanation very clearly and what could be a difficult thing to understand, oddly makes sense. However, the sense of realism one would come to expect from a film that has progressed as far as this has comes to a disappointing halt as what could have been bordering on a decent semi-science-fiction movie ends up feeling silly. Elise goes on to explain the existence of a timeless, other-dimensional place she calls the Further, which is where you go when you end up traveling too far from your body, in which case it can become impossible to come back.

What follows is a predictable twist involving Josh, who becomes the only one that can help, and a climax that feels anti-climactic if only because of how dire the situation was made to be by Elise’s explanation detailing the Further and how difficult it is to find one’s way back. The scenes shot to represent this other dimension lacked imagination and effort as we see where Dalton ultimately ended up. Granted, based on Elise’s description of the Further, accurately portraying this in a satisfactory manner would have proved difficult but there are ways around it so as provide a greater sense of hopelessness and a feeling that winning is nearly impossible rather than a simple outrunning the demon.

By the end of the movie, however, I was ultimately pleased, particularly the final few scenes. I feel the biggest weakness came with shooting a convincing explanation to provide a basis for the movie itself. The script worked fine as its own piece of work and aside from a few loopholes and careless screenplay actions (such as Josh’s lack of suitable reaction to the front door being unlocked and opened when the home alarm was blaring), everything is properly explained and confined together. Insidious would have made a much better novel but with some imagination, the film is pleasantly okay. Three stars

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