Insidious – Review

Insidious is a horror movie whose basic premise is that a young couple’s son slips into a coma for no reason at all and can’t wake up for months.  While he sleeps, scary things happen in the house.

It’s written and directed by the guys who did Saw, which I hated–the more gore in a horror movie, the more I usually dislike it.  On the plus side, it stars Patrick Wilson, of whom I’m a big fan, and it’s only rated PG-13, so it couldn’t be too gross.

The movie tells you in the opening credits it’s going to be different.  The title fills the entire screen with a discordant wail.  It’s not scary, but it’s unsettling.  Then less than halfway into the movie, they do something else to tell you it’s not your typical haunted house movie.  That’s what I liked best about this movie.  It tries hard to take ordinary horror movie tropes and put a crazy spin on them.

Patrick Wilson and his wife (played by Rose Byrne) are very convincing.  Their kids are adequate.  And the paranormal investigators that show up later are oddly funny.  Again, the movie tries something new with their characters, which feels out of place in a horror movie.  You kind of want to laugh at how weird it is–but the weirdness keeps things exciting.  It’s like the movie is teetering on the brink of becoming too silly, but always pulls back just in time.

The actual scares are mostly good.  There are several jump scares, with sudden movements or noises.  But there are also many that are just plain eerie and lingering.  There are a lot of practical effects in this movie–as in, not CGI ghosts, but real things put in front of the camera.  It adds a weight to the scares.  On the other hand, when it’s clearly a person in makeup, some people might think that makes it less supernatural, so this effect may vary from person to person.

There are a few problems, of course.  The biggest one being something I don’t want to give away, but it involves what happens to the kid when he’s in the coma.  The movie came up with a great idea, but when they showed it, it didn’t seem nearly as cool as when it was first described.  And there’s a pretty blatant scene of exposition when the investigator shows up, where she explains to the characters (but really the audience) what is happening.

Overall, I was shocked at how much I liked it.  I didn’t love it, but the fact that I liked it at all was surprising.  I’ve heard comparisons to Paranormal Activity.  I thought the first one of those was decent, and second one was bad.  This was much better than both, and I feel pretty comfortable recommending it to people who don’t normally like horror, with one warning–my wife, who loves horror movies, thought this one was awful.  However, she likes the Saw movies, so what does she know?  :)

Ryan S. Davis

I love board games, thrill rides and travel. I'm happy to watch and review all kinds of movies, from mainstream blockbusters to art house indies. As a Warner Bros. employee, I'm privileged with a glimpse of Hollywood many don't see, but my opinions here are my own and not representative of the company.

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