With horrors often passed over or frowned upon by film enthusiasts, it takes something different to cause a decent audience reaction. Recently we had Paranormal Activity but now we have internet sites full of images from James Wan's new film. Why? Let's see. This is Insidious.
Despite the expectation of horrors being poorly acted and weak in terms of plot, Insidious tries to be successful in both film-making and creating scares. The plot is a fairly generic premise for a horror. A family made up of mother, Renai (Rose Byrne), father, Josh (Patrick Wilson), and three kids move into a new house. Soon after they move in, things start to go wrong. After being lured into the attic by strange noises and opening doors, one of the sons, Dalton, falls down a ladder and goes into a coma shortly afterwards. Slowly, Renai starts to see and hear things around the house. A voice on the baby moniter. A man in her baby's room. The usual. So the family move. But nothing gets better.
So Phil, does it beat the expectations of horrors? Well, let's see. In terms of acting, it's not the best piece of work. We are never presented with a real fear. Admittedly, the worst acting is in the last three seconds but overall it's nothing special. Patrick Wilson, lacks conviction while Rose Byrne presents most of the good acting. Though, contrary to popular belief, working with children can work. Ty Simpkins and Andrew Astor (playing Dalton and Foester respectively) both show us that the younger generations can act. Still much room to improve but good enough. The light relief of the movie comes in the form of 'ghostbuster' double, Specs (Screenwriter - Leigh Whannell) and Tucker. (Angus Sampson) Their humor may seem out of place in a film full of jumps but the transitions between comedy and horror are so seem less that I don't see it as an issue. And finally, Elise, the psychic, (Lin Shaye) is the serious, all knowing figure. Something about her whole performance seems somewhat half hearted and never really becomes real.
But really, it's the film making that moves this film up from a normal horror. Wan and Whannell, the writing team that created Saw and Dead Silence, know a think or two about making horrors. No doubt they'll make a clown film soon. They've done psycho killer. They've done puppets. Now they've done children. Wait... I should re-word that. Made a horror movie revolving around a child. Better. What really struck me about this movie was the subtlety and the tension in the first half of the movie. Moments which made you question what you had seen. Not just because they came and went so quickly. Things in the background where you say, 'What was that? Did you see that? (See what) That thing in the corner.. It looked like...' Etc. There were several moments like this (including a cameo from Billy the Puppet.) These moments kept you on the edge of your seat.
However... The second half of the movie, while not without it's good bits, is a lot more cheesy. It becomes a bit too supernatural. It moves from the realms of paranormal experiences to a whole Further realm. (little inside joke for those of you who have seen it) Some of the most terrifying moments loose clarity here. What I suppose really should have been a big twist, despite being creepy, was not shocking. My opinion on why it looses clarity? Too much face. Demon's are A LOT scarier when you're unsure what you saw. The unknown is always scary. Showing a face for longer than a second, particularly a CGI or made up face, allows the audience to see what they're dealing with and see it's not as creepy as it first seemed. It gets a bit silly and far fetched.
The music was old school. It reminded me of films like The Shining and Psycho. Lots of strings. Lots of sharp, jarring notes. The inclusion of Tiptoe through the Tulips, Tiny Tim's version, was one of the creepiest uses of a cheesy song since the alarm tone in 1408. Well, until the second time it played. Camera work was nothing special. Very plain and basic. With a horror, lighting becomes very important too. The use of strobes, odd shadows and complete blackness is used to great effect.
Overall, not a bad film. Nor the next great horror. Enough to install hope for future horrors. Scary but also silly. If you have trouble sleeping after these sorts of movies, you may want to just think twice. James Wan and Leigh Whannel have gone downhill since Saw but still haven't reached that standard that other horrors hit.
Best Bit? There are a few really good bits. Personally, I loved the bit with the dancing kid. But that may just be me.