Insidious

This is one of my favorite horror films of all time. It still gives me the chills when I watch it and I have seen it numerous times. Director James Wan uses clever practical effects and a very minimum number of CGI effects to make this film look and feel like a house of horrors you pay a dollar to see at a spooky off-the-path carnival. It’s amazing and I recommend it to all people interested in horror. Oh, and it’s all that AND guess what it’s rated? Only PG-13. Goes to show you a film doesn’t have to be super gnarly to scare the bajeezus out of you. Let’s hear the trailer then look at the plot to see if you agree with me about what makes this horror film work.

Insidious (2010)
PG-13 | 1h 43min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller | 1 April 2011 (USA)
Insidious Poster
Trailer
0:31 | Trailer
5 VIDEOS | 25 IMAGES
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From $2.99 (SD) on Prime Video
A family looks to prevent evil spirits from trapping their comatose child in a realm called The Further.
Director: James Wan
Writer: Leigh Whannell
Stars: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins

Director James Wan Probably needs no introduction to my audience, however if you don’t know much about him, let me read his BIO for you, because I think in this case, the director makes the film work (among other things):

James Wan (born 26 February 1977) is an Australian film producer, screenwriter and film director of Malaysian Chinese descent. He is widely known for directing the horror film Saw (2004) and creating Billy the puppet. Wan has also directed Dead Silence (2007), Death Sentence (2007), Insidious (2010), The Conjuring (2013) and Furious 7 (2015).

Before his success in the mainstream film industry, he made his first feature-length film, Stygian, with Shannon Young, which won “Best Guerrilla Film” at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival (MUFF) in 2000.

Prior to 2003, Wan and Leigh Whannell had begun writing a script based for a horror film, citing inspiration from their dreams and fears. Upon completing the script, Leigh and James had wanted to select an excerpt from their script, later to be known as Saw (2004), and film it to pitch their film to studios. With the help of Charlie Clouser, who had composed the score for the film, and a few stand-in actors, Leigh and James shot the film with relatively no budget. Leigh had decided to star in the film as well.

After the release of the full-length Saw (2004), the film was met with overwhelming success in the box office both domestically and internationally. The film ended up grossing 55 million dollars in America, and 48 million dollars in other countries, totaling over $103 million worldwide. This was over 100 million dollars profit, over 80 times the production budget. This green-lit the sequel Saw II (2005), and later the rest of the Saw franchise based on the yearly success of the previous installment. Since its inception, Saw (2004) has become the highest grossing horror franchise of all time worldwide in unadjusted dollars. In the United States only, Saw (2004) is the second highest grossing horror franchise, behind only the Friday the 13th (1980) films by a margin of $10 million.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: Movie Guy

Now let me walk you through the most terrifying house and show you the way Insidious scares the hell out of people! It’s done simply through its story and well made horror. Married couple Josh and Renai Lambert, their children Dalton, Foster, and infant daughter Cali have recently moved into a new home. One night, Dalton is drawn to the attic when he hears creaking noises and sees the door open by itself. He falls from a ladder while investigating and sees a figure in the shadows. Hearing his terrified screams, Renai and Josh rush to his aid. The next day, Dalton falls into an inexplicable coma. The Lambert family is what the beginning is all about. There are no jump scares, just some eerie wandering around. In fact, the movie only has a few scant jump scares and even those are more like letting your eyes adjust to the light and seeing something that startles you. They aren’t overly ambitious and in a way I think of them as … respectful? Yeah, it’s like Wan is respecting the viewer. In this early segment, we do see Renai walking into an attic, exploring dark areas of the house. It’s certainly creepy. I take issue with Josh at one point, he doesn’t take very good care of his wife. She has her hands full with the kids and he is always running out the door, working late, etc. Maybe he makes up for it later? Yeah, he does.

After three months of treatment without result, Renai and Josh are allowed to take Dalton home. Soon after, paranormal activity begins to occur; Renai begins hearing voices over the baby monitor when no one is in Cali’s room. Foster says that Dalton sleepwalks at night, Renai sees a frightening figure of a man in Cali’s room, who vanishes when Josh comes and the burglar alarm is repeatedly triggered for no reason. After Renai finds a bloody hand print on Dalton’s bed, she questions Josh about the house, but he ignores her. That night, Renai is attacked by the figure from Cali’s room, and the Lamberts decide to abandon the house and move elsewhere. This is pretty huge. I’m not sure if you’ve ever uprooted and moved but there is a lot to carry. Even with help, which they have hired, you’re stressing all the time, trying to get your shit moved. In short, it sucks. I hope I don’t have to move again for many many moons. But them again, these folks have a demon stalking them. If he’s in the house, they can escape, so I get why they do. Houses work to scare people. You can do so much with hinges, alarms, hideaway beds, fire escapes, cellars, attics, and the like. AND let me tell you, James Wan fucking uses the house in a way I have not seen. I got more scared by things that weren’t there than by things that surprised me were there. HIgh five on the spooky house work Mr. Wan! I recall one example vividly when the camera pans through one window showing a scary silhouette into another and the figure is gone. I would love to know how he did that. I have a feeling it was a practical non cgi effect. Mr. Wan, I’ll buy the coffee lol let’s hang dude.

In the new house, Renai sees the ghost of a dancing boy who leads her to Dalton’s room. Josh’s mother, Lorraine, visits them one day, and says she had a dream in which a dark figure in Dalton’s room replies “Dalton” when she asks what it wants. At the same time, she sees the same dark figure, a monstrous red-faced demon standing behind Josh and screams, while Dalton’s room is ransacked and Dalton himself is found lying on the floor. Lorraine is played by Barbara Hershey and her looks and moodiness is so perfect for the role. As a well known famous and award winning actress, it would be possible for her to wreck the buzz we have going in favor of thoughts about “Beaches” and Bette Midler but thanks to her incredible belief in the movie that you can feel, that doesn’t happen. Our Insidious universe is only enhanced.

Lorraine calls demonologists Elise Reiner, Specs, and Tucker. Elise senses a presence in the house and upon entering Dalton’s room sees something on the ceiling. Specs draws the demonic, red-faced figure Lorraine saw. At this point we are all in the dark about what it happening but the edges of the plot are starting to become clearer.

Elise explains that Dalton is not in a coma; he was born with the ability to travel mentally to the astral plane, and had been doing so in his sleep, believing his abilities to merely be dreams. He had traveled too far and became lost in a purgatory realm called “The Further”, a place inhabited by the tortured souls of the dead. Without his mental presence, Dalton’s body appears comatose and spirits can use it to enter the physical world. Josh is skeptical until he realizes that drawings in Dalton’s bedroom hinted at his astral projection abilities and the same red-faced demon Lorraine had seen.I’ll call him “Red.” The Red demon is no longer a mystery. He starts to be in scene after scene. He is the dude you want OUT of your home. As if it was that easy. The jump scare where a crescent sliver of his face is sticking out from Josh’s is the stuff that great horror images are made of. I am scared of this guy but I want Red to come back to send chills up my spine and he does, just enough, not too much. Again, the genius of James Wan at play.

Elise performs a seance to communicate with Dalton, but they contact the demon who uses Dalton’s body to attack them until it is stopped by Elise. Elise reveals that her acquaintance with Lorraine is decades old, because she previously performed the same service on Josh when he was eight years old. Josh was terrorized by night terrors that always included the parasitic spirit of an old woman. Lorraine dismissed his nightmares until the spirit showed up in her photos of Josh, progressively getting closer each time. Josh also possesses the ability to astral project, though he had suppressed his memory of the ability years prior with Elise’s help. Dalton has inherited this trait from him. Elise tells Josh that the only way to rescue Dalton is for him to go into the Further. This is the best part of the movie for me. The scares work because the dead and the killer are still. We do hear a gunshot but the creepy people in their living room. one ironing, others bringing food, simply remain still. The face of the female shooter is the essence of horror to me. I really love this part they call “The Further.” Again, I want to reiterate and remind you this got a PG-13 rating. I find it scarier than some R’s.

Elise puts Josh in a trance and he is able to project himself to their previous house. He goes to the attic, but is attacked by the same figure that attacked Renai. After defeating him, Josh enters the Demon’s lair, where Josh finds Dalton chained to the floor. Josh frees him, but they are caught by the demon while the spirits of the Further invade the real world and terrorize Elise, Renai, and the others. After managing to escape, Josh confronts the old woman that haunted him as a child. The old woman dissolves into darkness after Josh shouts at it to leave him alone. When Josh and Dalton return to their bodies, they wake up in their new home and the spirits seem to disappear.

As they celebrate the apparent end of their ordeal, Elise starts packing her equipment with Josh, when she senses that something is wrong, noticing Josh’s hands look old and dirty, she takes a photo of him. Josh, enraged by this, strangles Elise to death. Renai is horrified when she discovers Elise’s dead body and searches for Josh. Renai picks up the camera and sees that the image Elise took of Josh is the old woman that haunted him as a child, implying that Josh has been possessed. Josh suddenly puts his hand on her shoulder, says “Renai, I’m here”, and she turns around and gasps.

So now, we are set up for sequels and prequels which for me does not make a film work. This one works as is and I sort of wish as I do with Star Wars, they would never have made a prequel or sequel. …

Author: Damien Riley

I post film reviews both written & audio. I'm a writer & podcaster, BA/MA English from Cal State Fullerton. Based in: Victorville, CA, USA My film review site is rileyonfilm.com

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