Thursday 29 September 2011


From the makers of the original Saw and Paranormal Activity, the creepy horror Insidious is out now on DVD and Blu-ray. Watch the trailer and read my review, next...

When Josh and Renai Lambert (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) move into a new home, their young son has an accident that plunges him into a deep coma. When strange things start to happen around the house and Renai starts seeing ghostly visions, they seek the help of Elise (Lin Shaye), a medium with a history of dealing with these spirits who may be able to 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 unwittingly started, but people seem to forget how great the original film (the only one he directed) was. It was a scary, low budget shocker built around a killer premise that couldn't be replicated, certainly not by the notoriously inferior sequels. Here Wan has 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, proven when they're smart enough to avoid horror conventions by moving house early on, only to be joined by the same apparitions in their new digs. The film tries its best to avoid falling into horror movie cliche's, so it's advised that you try to ignore the film's marketing (including the poster) as it's a bit misleading. Rather than Dalton being a Grudge-style creepy death child, it's the things we can't see around him that are the real 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 potential to scare is dampened somewhat in the later scenes when we get a closer look at them. The one true ace that this film has is a demon best described as Darth Maul crossed with 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. As Dalton's mother, Rose Byrne does a good frightened bewilderment, but Patrick Wilson's father seems a little bit blasé about it all. 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 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 an ending that could be described as tame by comparison.

I'm not afraid to admit it, Insidious scared the crap out of me. It twists 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 be looking over your shoulder to prove that you really are.


Blu-ray Special Features include Horror 101: The Exclusive Seminar; On set with Insidious; Theatrical Trailer and Insidious Entities - a closer look at the demons that does little to reduce their effectiveness.

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