Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rode Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Andrew Astor, Leigh Whannell, Barbara Hershey, Angus Sampson
Director: James Wan
Writer(s): Leigh Whannell
Cinematography: David M. Brewer, John R. Leonetti
Original Score: Joseph Bishara
Running Time: 103 Mins.
Horror, a genre often struggling to find credence amidst a glut of straight-to-DVD rubbish, self parody, torture porn, the found footage “phenomenon” is more recently trying spawning the type of horror that was in vogue in the 70’s and 80’s, haunted house tropes (The Shining) and malevolent spirits (Poltergeist) are rife while the score is integral (more so than ever) in ramping up frequent jumps and jolts, slow burning and holding back on the gore these were the types of film that were refreshingly scary proving that less, more often than not, is more.
Strange then that the same guys who gave birth to what has now become coined as “torture porn” with Saw have taken something of an about turn in crafting something so far removed from the blood and guts of their debut, in fact this has more in common with the oft forgotten Dead Silence, Wan and Whannell’s flop follow up to the original Saw, in that it unashamedly uses 70’s-like title screens and lots and lots of loud noises accompanying brief flashes of creepy faces.
These may be the oldest tricks in the book when it comes to eliciting a jump from your audience but these guys know how to wield horror iconography in the most effective way, but wait there is another (now) iconic horror name on the posters, Oren Peli, he who gave us Paranormal Activity. Perhaps a better signifier as to what to expect from Insidious is Peli’s involvement, his name suggests a slow burn and family aesthetic, both are present and correct although Insidious does overcome the problem faced by Paranormal Activity, that film was ultimately gimmicky.
Story-wise no new ground is broken really, though come the film’s denouement some rather neat and original ideas are seemingly presented until it all falls apart following a rather too long stint in “the further”, something which can also said about the films demon (as seen in the above image) looking like a cross between Darth Maul and (tellingly) Freddy Krueger. So after a good hours worth of creepy imagery and genuine scares the cracks do show, and that all too often tendency towards cliché creeps in with echoes of Hellraiser, Nightmare On Elm Street and Poltergeist are ramped up.
Thankfully the presence of a little humour (tongue in cheek) in the form of some paranormal investigators and a nice twist on a séance perk up proceedings so the film manages to avoid wallowing in boredom as could have potentially happened (Paranormal Activity I’m looking at you) and a final five minutes that inevitably set up for a sequel are nicely handled despite leaving us with the prospect of more of the “further” something that really isn’t needed…or wanted.
Insidious cleaves closely to some of the best horror films of the 70’s and 80’s but falls apart a touch as it tries to tread a more “original” approach, that said it is likely one of the most genuinely creepy films you will see for the first hour or so and for that amidst down-right awful output in the genre is a refreshing change.