Insidious

Movie review by Neil Sadler

Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, Lin Shaye, Ty Simpkins, Andrew Astor, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Corbett Tuck, Heather Tocquigny
Director: James Wan

There are 3 ways to play a modern horror film:

1 – Blast the audience with gore and effects
2 – Load the film with bumps and shocks
3 – Be all post modern and play it for laughs.

For the most part INSIDIOUS sits between the last two quite successfully and only really falters when it tries for the first.

It tells the story of Josh and Renai (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne). When their son, Dalton falls into an unexplained coma, strange occurrences happen and Josh’s mother suggests they bring in a paranormal expert to save their son.

When you learn that this film has much of the same creative team as SAW as well as the producer of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY you may be hopeful of a nice cross between the inventiveness of the first and the simple shocks of the latter but unfortunately things don’t stack up quite that way.

Yes, there are some extremely effective scares and the story has some very original elements but a lot of the scares are a bit lazy and the story relies on a few too many cliches. If anything, this feels like a pastiche of an older movie with a few slight nods to modern horror.

All of this would be fine if the film didn’t really lose its way about two-thirds in when it starts to explain its phenomena. This isn’t helped by the incongruent inclusion of the post modern comedy duo at just the point in the film when you need to take it most seriously. Leigh Wannell is one of the writers and his character is often funny but he and his comedy sidekick feel like they are from another film.

Rose Byrne has done this kind of thing before and does distraught beautifully. Patrick Wilson looks uncomfortable, constipated even for much of the film. Lyn Shae best known for her grotesque characters in Farelly Brothers films is a revelation as the psychic and manages to be both charming and convincing and delivers some of the biggest lines and best scares very believably.

The bumps and scares do the job helped by a score that seems ripped straight from a Dario Argento film but once the big bad is revealed and our imagination is replaced with a succession of extras who seem to have raided the costume department, it all gets a bit silly. It is not just the music that feels like the spirit of Dario Argento is in communication through this film. The kind of overblown reality he loves in his films is ever present throughout. But INSIDIOUS lacks a couple of elements that his films have, and it is these that would have made it a much better movie. Because it is a PG-13 (US) / 15 (UK) there is very little gore – one of the main reasons the big bad seems a bit insipid. Also if only it took itself a bit more seriously, it might succeed in scaring you a whole lot more.

2 out of 6 stars

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