out of Five
Running time: 102
Derivative, uneven and frequently tedious, Insidious wastes a talented cast and is nowhere near as scary as it thinks it, though it does deliver a few cheap shocks, if you like that sort of thing.
What's it all about?
Directed by James Wan and written by Leigh Whannell (co-creators of the Saw franchise), Insidious stars Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne as Josh and Renai, a young couple who become convinced that their new house is haunted and are terrified when their young son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) inexplicably lapses into a coma. Unusually for a horror movie, they actually move house (pretty much the film's only original moment), only to discover, to their horror, that it's not the house that was haunted at all ...
Insidious starts well with a decent set-up but quickly lapses into a mish-mash of every poltergeist and haunted house movie you've ever seen, including some direct lifts from the recent Paranormal Activity (not coincidentally, Paranormal Activity director Oren Peli gets a
producer's credit). It then lurches away from its initial premise and becomes something else again, with increasingly ridiculous results.
That said, there are a few cheap shocks of the SUDDEN NOISE variety (cats leaping out and the like) and the film does perk up a bit in the middle with the arrival of a trio of nerdy ghostbusters played by Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell and, rather brilliantly, Farrelly Brothers regular Lin Shaye, who, on the strength of this performance, should branch out more often.
The main problem is that the film completely wastes its talented leads by giving them nothing interesting to do: consequently, Wilson looks actively bored throughout and Byrne seems miscast, with the film failing to capitalise on her emotionally chilly screen persona. The
same thing happens with the wonderful Barbara Hershey (as Josh's mother), who seems like she's going to be important but is then almost completely ignored.
Cheap shocks and the occasional creepy image aside, Insidious is never quite as scary as it thinks it is and the jarring lurch into black comedy (with the arrival of the ghostbusters) actually backfires as it punctures any atmospheric tension the film had built up at that point.
It also doesn't help that the eventual reality of what's going on turns out to have a ridiculously stupid name (“The Further”), which takes you out of the film every time anyone mentions it.
Despite the odd moment, Insidious never quite manages to engage, thanks to an uneven tone and a derivative script that fails to provide any original scares.