It’s not the house that’s haunted.
The terrifying story of a parents who, shortly after moving house, discover that dark spirits have possessed their home and that their son has inexplicably fallen into a coma. Trying to escape the haunting and save their son, they move again — only to discover that it was not their house that was haunted.
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Saw helmer James Wan crafts a fun horror that never quite delivers on its promise.
Insidious sees the parties behind two horror heavyweights – the creators of Saw and the producers of Paranormal Activity – join forces for an almighty fright-fest. Yet while the result of their unholy union is chock-full of scares, it fails to hit the horror heights of its predecessors, creating the requisite atmosphere but never quite delivering on its promise.
A twist on the clichéd haunted house genre, the film finds teacher Josh (Patrick Wilson), pianist Renai (Rose Byrne) and their three children moving into a beautiful new abode. But while on the surface they appear to have achieved domestic bliss, there’s something horribly amiss in their new home.
It begins in the harmless fashion that stories like this tend to; with books falling off shelves and possessions disappearing only to re-appear in another location. But their youngest son seems genuinely troubled by something within the building’s walls; his fear compounded by a terrifying incident in the attic and culminating in the child going to bed one night and falling into an inexplicable coma.
Understandably distraught, the family rallies around their stricken son, and that’s when the fun really begins. Doors mysteriously open, alarms go off for no apparent reason, the child’s baby monitor spews forth ungodly sounds, and everything that can go bump in the night does.
The voice of reason, Josh refuses to believe that anything supernatural is occurring and instead avoids the issue by taking every opportunity to stay out of the house. And it’s while he’s at work that one of the film’s spookiest sequences occurs, Renai experiencing a sustained attack in which she is terrorised and tormented by whatever forces are at work.
So far, so derivative, with the movie betraying its roots by playing like a carbon copy of Paranormal Activity, albeit with a bigger budget and better actors.
Insidious then makes a dramatic left-turn however, with the couple calling in a pair of ridiculous ghostbusters – who contribute some much-needed light relief to proceedings – and then a clairvoyant, who finally sheds some light on events.
And while the truth is both ridiculous and outlandish, it does take the film into some pretty interesting and original territory as the couple endeavour to fight the forces of evil to bring back their son.
The trouble is, because the audience barely got to know the boy before he fell sick, we’re not invested in what they are fighting for after. Of course we sympathise with parents trying to save their child, but the connection with the family goes no further than that, making for a somewhat superficial filmgoing experience.
It’s certainly a scary movie, with an incredibly high quota of jumps-per-minute, although they tend to be of the lazy variety, the filmmakers relying on the classic horror staples of having ghostly apparitions suddenly appear in a flash or mysterious figures run in and out of frame rather than creating anything more original.
Director James Wan certainly uses all of the cinematic tools at his disposal, employing flashbacks, dream sequences and a corking score to create disorientation in the audience and complement the film’s creeping sense of dread.
But he lets himself down somewhat in the film’s final third; a fantastical sequence underwhelming when it should blow the mind, and feeling like it’s been lifted from a cheap 1970s TV movie rather than a more expensive Hollywood horror.
He has a way with the disturbing image however, creating several memorable shots that will doubtless become the stuff of nightmares.
And he’s ably supported by an excellent cast who remain fully committed throughout. Rose Byrne delivers a touching performance as the mother whose only wish is to cure her son, and as evil engulfs her family, one genuinely feels for her plight.
Patrick Wilson has a less showy role as the film’s doubting Thomas, although he’s solid and never-less-than believable, even in the film’s more outlandish flights of fancy.
Ghsotbusters Angus Sampson and Leigh Whannell play things a little broad, their shtick generating laughs but threatening to make the movie more screwball than head-f*ck. Lin Shaye steadies the ship as the clairvoyant with the answers however, upping the creep factor when she enters the fray, and managing to deliver some truly ridiculous exposition with a straight face.
So while its well played, competently scripted and for the most part cleverly shot, it seems unlikely that the filmmakers have another Saw or Paranormal Activity on their hands, the movie lacking the ingenious plotting and memorable villain of the former and the sustained terror of the latter.
The result is a neat take on the genre that’s filled with immediate scares but lacking anything more substantial. Or in cruder terms, it’s the horror equivalent of a drunken one-night stand – good for a few cheap thrills but unlikely to live long in the memory.
|Leading Cast:||Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey|
|Age Rating:||R 16|
|Running Time:||103 min|
|Release Date:||22 July 2011 (South Africa)|