Once the creepy kid in the house stops being creepy, then you know you’re screwed.
Young couple, Josh (Patrick Wilson), and Renai (Rose Byrne), realize that their family is growing larger and larger by the newborn, so they decide to move to a bigger house. No big deal. Once they get settled in and Josh goes off to his day-time job as a middle-school teacher, Renai is left at home with the baby, where she tries to make songs out of music career (even though it’s never fully explained if she is or isn’t, it’s just there); but then it gets weird when she starts to hear, see, and feel stuff around her in the house. Then, it gets even weirder when their oldest son falls off of a ladder in the attic, only to be placed into a “coma” a couple of days later, one that he doesn’t seem to be waking out of, and one that the doctors have no clue about, how it happened, why, or how to get him to snap out of it. Basically, all hope is lost for Josh and Renai, until they begin to get really, REALLY paranoid about there being some ghost-like figures in the house, so therefore, they call on a professional in the form of a happy-go-lucky paranormal investigator (Lin Shaye).
You got to hand it to James Wan, the dude knows how to make a mainstream movie, even out of an indie-budget. For a movie that apparently cost a reported $1.5 million, had very little CGI-effects, and barely all that much blood (with the exception of a bloody hand-print), Wan knows how to keep things scary and tense, even if he isn’t showing us everything that needs to be seen, in order to be scared by. Obviously for anybody who’s seen his latest-venture in horror with The Conjuring, knows that the guy is good at giving us very little, in order to give us a whole of uneasy feelings in the pit of our stomach; hence why the from first act, to somewhere in the middle, works so damn well.
The score that screeches every time something SHOCKING or UNEXPECTED happens, does get to be a bit much at times, but when it comes to creating a sense of dread or fear, just by making us feel like we’re going to see something we’re not going to want to see, is a specialty that Wan seems to run with and actually love. Most of the scary scenes here do occur with the score, but when Wan keeps it quiet and sudden, you’re really on edge throughout most of it. The main scene that comes to my mind right away is the key one where Josh is running around the house late at night, and for some reason, the door keeps on swinging open every time he leaves it all alone. Every time he comes back, it’s open, and you can just feel that there is a presence in this house with him. You don’t know where it is, you don’t know what it looks like, and you don’t know how it’s going to show itself, but the anticipation to find out for yourself is what really gets you going throughout this whole scene. And hell, when it shows up, it’s pretty freaking scary.
But the problem is, once that scene is over with, and Josh realizes that this is all too true to an illusion, then the movie begins to fall apart by its own deception. Case in point: Wan’s direction.
First of all, what Wan set-up perfectly with this first-to-second-act was that this was going to be a horror flick, no doubt about that whatsoever; however, at the same time, it wasn’t going to be the same type of horror flick we usually see from the mainstream. It was going to be small; it was going to be quiet; and it was going to go back to the roots of horror, haunted-house idea and all. This had me all pumped-up for what was churning out to be a great, as well as very effective horror flick, one that didn’t need to change the game to work, but just be scary, that was it. Like I said though, around this time is where the movie began to slap me in the face, and in a way, began to slap itself in the face as well.
See, Wan betrays his own sense of direction by getting extremely goofy by the end, almost in a way that seems like it’s ripped out of an entirely different movie altogether. Without spoiling too much for the fellow-beings out there that haven’t seen this yet, I’ll say that the ending feels like a cheesy, homemade haunted-house you’d walk into if you had a first date with someone on Halloween night. You know it’s not scary, instead, it’s just random and over-the-top, but the person next to you/who you’re with is scared, and so you just sit there and enjoy the fellow person’s crazy emotions. That’s how I felt watching this movie, except, I wasn’t on a date with anybody, it wasn’t Halloween night, and I was all by my lonesome. Which basically means nobody was there to have me entertained by their fright.
All in all though, it’s Wan’s fault, and nobody else’s, that the movie falls apart and gets nutty by the end. And yes, although I do have to say it did look cool and it kept me intrigued the whole time, it felt like a bad move on his part, because what we were working with in the beginning was just doing so well, and was working so many wonders. Why the dude decided to change all of that up, and go for big, loud, and odd, really is beyond me. Then again, it was a mainstream horror movie, so maybe there were more powers at work here? Maybe, baby.
Anyway, the other source of intrigue I had with this flick was the couple at the center, played by both Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson. Both are good in everything that they do, but I feel as if they are almost too good for this type of material where they have to play somewhat clueless, somewhat stupid, but also scared by what may happen to them. Byrne can yell, hoot, holler and scream her way through just anything, while Wilson just has to be stand there, and he’ll already be the coolest, most happenin’ guy in the room; but when you put them together and place them in a haunted-house, where scary things happen. it doesn’t quite work so well. They’re nice people, and you care for them and their family, but they just feel like they’re slumming it down a bit too much, and could totally be using their skills for something better, and a lot more worth their time.
Same goes for both Barbara Hershey and Lin Shaye, both very accomplished actresses in their own right, but feel oddly-misplaced here. Mainly Hershey who, I guess with how her career has recently been turning out to be, might just have to stick with these “creepy mommy”-roles for the rest of her life, which is a shame too, because she’s a solid actress when she’s given the right material. This isn’t it, and I could say the same thing about Shaye, although she comes off in a better light than Hershey, mainly because she seems more-equipped for this outlandish, nutso horror stuff. After awhile though, her only purpose in this movie is to shout out exposition and tell us what should happen, at any certain time. Boring!
Consensus: While Insidious does start off mighty fine with just the right amount of tension, chills, and suspense in the air, it all goes away once Wan realizes that he has a bigger budget to work with here than he originally thought, and decides to let ‘er rip with the non-stop costumes, ghouls, demons, creatures, and Tiny Tim music, as if that dude’s jams weren’t freaky enough.
6 / 10 = Rental!!