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From the makers of Paranormal Activity, Insidious is the terrifying story of a family who, shortly after moving, discovers 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 realize that it was not their house that was haunted.
For most of its first half, Insidious creeps along in top form as a classical haunted house movie, seething with chilling riffs and cinematic idioms that embrace the best elements of the genre. Director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell (the cocreative team that unleashed the Saw franchise onto unsuspecting moviegoers in 2004) create a genuine sense of foreboding that many audiences may experience as the kind of imagery vaguely recalled from actual nightmares. Shadowy figures are glimpsed behind curtains or are barely visible through darkened windows, with the tension building from something that is only halfway there. Or maybe that something is all the way there and we just can't make it out clearly enough through the haze of our gathering dread. There aren't any cheap thrills or phony scares; the menacing tone is measured and well earned and doesn't have to rely on things jumping out of the darkness. The terror often comes from what we don't see, or rather what we're afraid we're about to see.
It's a simple story about a young family--Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai (Rose Byrne) and their three small children--settling into a new home. Again following classical form, there's a presence in the house that either doesn't want them there, or needs them to stay for the evilest possible reasons. When 8-year-old Dalton (Ty Simpkins) falls into an unexplained coma after a spooky encounter in the attic, Renai starts seeing the above-mentioned figures lurking around the house, sometimes none too subtly. Though the goings-on are unexplainable, no one acts crazy and Josh believes that his wife's bizarre encounters are real. Like any sensible people who believe they've taken up residence in a haunted house, they move. But the spookiness moves with them and the menace gets worse as months pass and Dalton remains unconscious without reasonable medical cause. Since things can't stay unexplained forever, the plot begins to intrude, especially when a geeky pair of paranormal investigators (Angus Sampson and writer Leigh Whannell) provide some slightly out-of-kilter comic relief. Fortunately their boss (Lin Shaye) is a bona fide psychic who's all business, and she determines that the ghosts, or demons, or whatever they are want Dalton, not the house or its other inhabitants. As the explanations continue, it's revealed that the little boy has the gift of astral projection and his spirit has left his body without really knowing it's gone. If he doesn't come back soon he'll be lost forever, taken by the strongest of the creepy phantoms, a blood-red fiend who provides the most terrifying moments of half-glimpsed horror. It turns out that Dalton inherited his gift from Dad, who has repressed his own childhood encounters with out-of-body flight, but must revisit the dark limbo where all the specters lurk in order to reunite his son's body and soul.
All this narrative sometimes gets in the way of the sinister unknowns that started the story, but there are still plenty of frights to maintain a consistently disturbing tone (and without a drop of blood or gore). Wan and Whannell preserve the less-is-more strategy to fine effect, honoring the legacy of a timeless horror style while ably stamping it with their own unique imprimatur. Whether or not you have a personal history of nightmares, there are plenty of willies to go around in the eerie confines of Insidious--an apt title for a movie whose ideas and images invade the mind with scary and spectral imagination. --Ted Fry
On Set With Insidious
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There are some truly scary moments throughout with the ghosts involved, this and the other insidious entry's are top notch.
After Dalton's fall, Renai begins seeing strange apparitions and hearing noises. Josh, while somewhat skeptical, believes his wife and, thinking that somehow the house is haunted, the family moves a new home. Although settled in their new home, the mysterious apparitions and noises didn't disappear with the move. Soon, Josh, Renai, and the children are running out of options. With seemingly nowhere else to turn, Renai enlists the help of a trained psychic (Lin Shaye) to determine the problem. Upon her investigation, she determines that Dalton has the ability of astral projection, and his spirit has been corrupted by evil and he's now imprisoned in a dimension known as "The Further". Only Josh, himself also able to astral project, can save his son from the demons who wish to possess him. Will he succeed before its too late?
This is an excellent movie. There's no blood and gore here, only truly terrifying psychological terror. The story line is well-conceived, and the acting is very good. I watched the movie twice, and I jumped each time I saw it. Be sure to watch very closely, because there are some hidden clues throughout the course of the film. The ending is totally unexpected, too. You'll definitely be scared watching "Insidious". Highly recommended.
How it will strike devotees of the genre, I cannot say, but for those who only occasionally drop in on this type of movie (like myself), it should be effective.