Director: James Wan
Writer: Leigh Whannell
Stars: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Barbara Hershey
RANT: I'm sure that everyone thinks that I would be reviewing Hop today. But I am sure that I will not need to add my two cents in for that sure-fire hit. And since I am always amazed at horror films that come out at any point outside of Autumn, Insidious caught my attention.
SYNOPSIS: A couple and their three children are haunted. When they move into a new home and the hauntings continue, they make the realization that the hauntings are not coming from the house, but from their comatose son.
The writers and directors of Dead Silence and a couple Saw films come back to the screen with another stab at scaring us out of our seats. While Saw spawned a franchise and a small devoted fan base, James Wan and Leigh Whannell flailed with the creepy dummies of Dead Silence. Now, with sharp violin strings and a couple of boys that could double as a Damien stand-in (but in a good way), Wan and Whannell try again at the genre that brought them some success.
Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) and his wife Renai (Rose Byrne) move into a new home with their two sons and baby daughter, hoping for a fresh start. Of course, the outside of the house does not reflect the deep wood trim, endless staircases, creaking floorboards or squeaky door that leads to a musty, gray attic space. A couple days in, and the older son finds himself exploring the attic, hearing noises like twigs breaking, falling down, and his parents finding him comatose the next morning. Over the next three months, Renai starts seeing ghosts in their house and begs Josh to move again.
Wan and Whannell bring a couple cool ideas to Insidious. When the hauntings follow the Lamberts to the new house - which breaks the cardinal rule a la Poltergeist - the story takes a sweet turn by making the son haunted instead of the house. And Wan does some nice cinematography to make the new, more modern abode seem as creepy as the older model. Barbara Hershey enters in the second act as Josh's mother with a hidden family secret that most smart horror movie goers had already figured out to some degree with the first family photo that Renai unpacked, twice!
And again tipping the hat to Poltergeist, enter Lin Shaye as Elise Rainier, a medium and reserved ghost hunter. Preceding her are his two ghost hunter cohorts Specs (the writer Leigh Whannell - who is quite watchable) and slovenly Tucker (Angus Sampson). The trio actually steal the show while they are on-camera, even over Patrick Wilson's tortured husband and father and Rose Byrne's tortured and haunted mother and wife. While Lin Shaye is no Zelda Rubenstein, she does look cool in a Cold War-era modified gas mask. James Wan pulls the curtain back from the Insidious beyond, called the Further, allowing us to see what Carol Anne might have endured while in the spirit world.
I was prepared to be scared throughout. Wan and Whannell took the high road by not giving the audience the obvious frights. Sprinklings of The Sixth Sense, Thirteen Ghosts, Poltergeist, The Ring and other films, Insidious eventually disappoints with a weak, almost 1950s B-movie ghoul fest climax. I did jump once, with the fire-branded demon behind Josh. And a series of childhood photographs produced a couple of goose bumps, too.
Now I know why Insidious made an April release date. It was an April's Fools prank on me!