Saturday 7 May 2011


From the director of the original Saw, the creepy horror Insidious is now in cinemas. Watch the trailer and read my review, after the jump...

When Josh and Renai Lambert (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) move into a new home, an accident seemingly causes their young son to plunged into a deep coma, and strange things start to happen around the house. When Renai starts seeing ghostly visions that are getting closer by the day, they seek the help of Elise (Lin Shaye), a medium with a history of dealing with these spirits who may shed some light on their wicked intentions.

Director James Wan has taken a lot of stick for creating the Saw franchise and the genre of torture porn it ushered in, but people seem to forget how great the original film (the only one he directed) was. It was scary, low budget and based around a killer premise that couldn't be replicated. Here he's teamed up with Oren Peli, the new-kid-on-the-block director of the first Paranormal Activity film (and producer of its follow up) to create a new horror that tips its hat towards Peli's franchise, as well as horror classics such as Poltergeist and The Amityville Horror.

Although it may at first seem like a traditional haunted house horror, it soon becomes apparent that the problem lies within the Lambert's comatose son Dalton, proved when they're smart enough to move house early on, only to be joined by the same apparitions in their new digs. As Dalton's mother, Rose Byrne does a good frightened bewilderment, but Patrick Wilson's father seems a little bit blas√© about it all. Ignore the film's marketing (including the poster) that makes it look like Dalton's a Grudge-style creepy death child, as that's a bit misleading. It's the things we can't see around him that are the source of the scares.

The ghostly characters have carefully been chosen to scare as much bejeesus out of you as possible (creepy little boy, twin girls, woman in wedding dress), although their effect is dampened somewhat in the later scenes when we get a closer look at them. The ace that this film has is a demon best described as Darth Maul meets the Metz Judderman. Creepy, lanky and springing up from nowhere, he's one of the scariest things I've seen on screen for a long time.

James Wan is still a young director with only a few features under his belt (as well as Saw his Death Wish homage Death Sentence is worth checking out), but he uses all the directorial tricks in the book to get as many scares as possible. He shifts the light temperature to make the film suddenly cold, his camera floats around the building like it itself is a ghost, but perhaps most effectively he knows when to let a shot linger and when cut to a scary blink-and-you'll-miss-it monster. It's assured horror direction that doesn't rely on gore to get a reaction.

Not all aspects of the film work. The 'Ghostbusters' team (including writer Leigh Whannell) that accompany Lin Shaye's medium seem to have wandered off a different film and don't really fit in this film's world at all, and the climactic scenes in the dry-ice filled house are strangely similar to Joe Dante's recent kids horror, The HoleBut like most successful horrors, it's in the build up where it gets you, and there's plenty of scary imagery that will disturb long after the film's finished, despite its slightly limp ending.

I'm not afraid to admit it, Insidious scared the crap out of me. It uses all the horror movie cliches it can to send as many shivers down your spine as possible. It's cold, loud, thoroughly creepy and understands how disturbing a good bit of character design can be. Don't watch it alone, or you'll find yourself looking over your shoulder to prove that you really are.


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