ROSE BYRNE PATRICK WILSON BARBARA HERSHEY LIN SHAYE
The title certainly may not reach out and grab you, but the subject matter may. Insidious comes from the word deceitful, but the film comes from director James Wan, who did the first installment of Saw and the silly movie Dead Silence. Insidious is easily his best film to date; the acting is superb and, for most of the film, it remains very believable and honest in both characters and their realistic reactions to irregular activity. Byrne has found herself in some of the best movies of 2011, including X-Men First Class and Bridesmaids. Certainly, one can give the Australian actress credit for delivering in a variety of genres. Wilson (Little Children, Angels in America) is no stranger to genre films either, as he has stumbled around from performance to performance, usually shedding his clothes.
The Lambert family has just moved into their new home. Josh (Wilson) is a teacher and very straight forward kind of husband and father to his three children, Dalton, Foster and their new baby. Renai (Byrne) is a musician who works on songs in between her motherly duties and getting the house organized. Within the first week she begins to notice things out of place, strange voices on the baby monitor, and, one evening when their eldest, Dalton, ventures into the attic exploring he ends up in a coma the next morning and the doctors cannot explain why. The members of the Lambert family begin to hear more noises and Renai begins to see horrifying visions that force them to move, but the next house has the same issue and they realize it isn’t the house causing the activity, but their own child.
I equate horror films to vacations. They work much the same way; the build up to the secret or the climax (or looking forward to and planning a vacation) is often better than the big reveal or the conclusion. Insidious works exactly that way. It’s a slow build and both performances by Byrne and Wilson are structured so that we buy into their fear and desperation. Insidious toys with the idea of giving into the same concepts of Paranormal Activity then The Exorcist and a host of other horror films, but every time it gets close to something we have seen before it re-routes itself as if Wan was just using the familiarity as a starting point.
The climax of a horror film is always the most difficult to pull off and here Wan veers into sadistic territory, but he almost makes it comical, as if borrowing some of the most kooky elements from Saw. When the concept of Astral travel comes up in the movie I think a lot of the buildup they worked so hard for is diluted by a concept that ends up being too much of the script’s climactic focus. Insidious, like many other recent films, uses a cheerful song to evoke feelings of terror along with children’s toys and what not. This is a concept we have seen successfully used to terrify viewers for decades. The film earns some of it's points back in the last two minutes for deviating once again from a predictable ending.
Final Thought – Likely the year’s best horror film.
By: Dustin Chase W.
Editor: Michael Woody