Having watched countless films whose plots revolve around horror or the supernatural, I’ve become unfazed by most of what I’ve seen the past decade. That’s not to say that I don’t find many productions that are classified as belonging to those two genres entertaining, interesting, or visually spectacular; sometimes a film impresses me on all three of those levels. I will, however, admit that an exceptionally long period of time has elapsed since a film of that nature has stuck with me like an unwelcome guest that clings to me after I’ve left the darkness of the theater and stepped back into the reality of the world from behind its closed doors. Insidious has managed to do just that.
Directed by James Wan (Saw) and written by Leigh Whannell (Dead Silence) the PG-13, 103 minute horror film, made for a paltry (at least by Hollywood standards) $1,500,000 has so far gone on to gross over $50,000,000 dollars. This film should establish James Wan as a go to director in the genre and, in this blogger’s opinion, rightfully so. It is a return to good old fashioned style horror movies where substance outweighs gore. There are no acts of extreme brutality, the screen is neither soaked with blood nor does the film delve into that which would make one want to bring back up their dinner. It is a solid piece of filmmaking, but don’t for a second confuse what I’ve written for code that it is a child friendly cinematic experience that is appropriate for all members of the family, it is far from it.
Prior to seeing Insidious, I hadn’t read anything about it or watched its trailer, so other than knowing that it was a horror film, I didn’t have clue one as to what I would be watching. Several minutes into the film, I thought to myself “here we go again,” another haunted house tale. I am glad my initial feelings as to what the film would involve were wrong. If I had been right in my assumption, I wouldn’t have been treated to the genre gem that I was. Insidious takes its time establishing character and mood, but it is time worth investing in as the well crafted story visually unfolds before your eyes.
The film, as previously mentioned, begins on familiar horror turf. A young family of five moves into a house and strange things begin to take place. Renai Lambert played by Rose Byrne (Get Him to the Greek) is an aspiring songwriter, and her husband Josh, a role acted by Patrick Wilson, (Morning Glory) is a teacher whose oldest son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) goes into a coma which baffles members of the medical community. No one can tell the child’s parents why their boy has fallen prey to such a condition. Coupled with the other strange occurrences, Renai Lambert feels that the house is haunted and implores Josh to relocate the family before further tragedy strikes. Normally, at this moment in the film, the patriarch of these fictional families will put his foot down and insist that nothing is happening because of the house and that it would be sheer idiocy to move. Afterwards, of course, as everyone knows who watches these sorts of movies, all manner of chaos begins to befall the family that didn’t heed the warning to leave…but refreshingly, that doesn’t happen in this film. The opposite transpires and the Lambert family does vacate their property, moving to what they hope are going to be greener pastures. Sadly for them, but giving “us, the viewer” our monies worth, it doesn’t turn out to be the case. This is where the film’s creative forces turn a tired genre on its head and really delivers much needed lifeblood to a played out plot. In this blogger’s opinion, they are to be commended for not taking the same safe cinematic road traveled by many of their contemporaries.
Screenwriter Leigh Whannell, who is also an actor, plays the role of Specs in the movie. He is a character that is part of a three person paranormal research team that includes Tucker (Angus Sampson), and far removed from her role in the smash comedy There’s Something About Mary, actress Lin Shaye is Elise Rainier the trio’s leader. In addition, veteran actress Barbara Hershey (Black Swan) is in the role of Josh Lambert’s mother who has a long guarded secret that may pertain to the events that are transpiring regarding her grandson; secrets that are revealed through appropriate exposition. Not to worry, not every second of the film grips you by the throat and squeezes you until you turn blue; Whannell and Sampson’s characters provide nice touches of comic relief without going over the top for laughs or allowing the movie to depart too much from its pulse pounding tone.
The breakout performance for me, and the most interesting role, was the one played by Patrick Wilson, whose character, during the second half, moves to the front and center of the action. The underlying complexity of his character, the emotional baggage, and the sheer draining portrayal he gives of a man who is willing to do anything to save his son, even open up long dormant wounds, is to be commended because he captures his character’s emotions brilliantly. Once Josh Lambert gives in and joins forces with his wife as parents who will stop at nothing to get their son back, the rest of the film I wound up rooting for them to do just that. Do they succeed? Well I won’t spoil it for you. Insidious is a must see film for lovers of well scripted, acted, and emotionally driven horror, and is playing in theaters nationwide.