Insidious (2010) - Director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell bring this creepy not quite what you expected ghost story to the screen with mixed results. Wan the director of Saw (2004) and Dead Silence (2007) knows how to create tension in this kind of film and has some very effective bits. It is a story of a family The Lamberts who move into a house that seems haunted. Like all good haunted house stories they establish the haunting a bit at a time. It is obvious they have just moved in from the unpacked boxes. Then there is the kid, one of two young boys in the family named Dalton (Ty Simpkins) comes down to say he does not like his room. Its tough moving into a new house and the little kid is still unsure. This is the kind of start you would expect, except that pre-credit sequence started with frightening music as the camera flows through the house to the creepy faced ghost bride holding the camera. During the credits also it is very clear through the music that this will attempt to be a hair raiser. Now most haunted house stories start this way with The Amityville Horror standing out in my mind, they start with the location, the house and we spend some time with Renai Lambert (Rose Byrne) as she walks around the place. Side note: Who has a furnace in their attic, why is there a furnace that goes on in the attic? Of course the Amityville horror does not work as a example because it opens with a murder in the house and soon after the family moves in there is a scene where the priest is driven out by flies and the voice saying "Get Out!" This film by no means is so over the top. Although in the Amityville Horror there is the kid coming to the parents and saying she wants to go home even though the family are in the new house. Similarly An American Haunting (2005) starts big with an action packed scene of a teenage girl being chased by unseen forces, a terrifying dream, then the film quiets down to build up the ghost story a bit at a time.
So where have we seen the trope of the haunted house before? Well Recently there was The Others (2001),The Grudge (2004), Paranormal Activity (2007) all do the incremental haunting well. This film will take a different twist on the haunting. After its building of the creepy haunted house motif it shifts gears. A bit too fast and without enough setup. That shift is surprisingly against the norm for a haunted house film and welcomed. The bits leading up to it are great though, the false scare in the attic when Dalton falls from the ladder. Creepy sounds while everyone sleeps, and when Dalton does not wake up in the morning the panic of father Josh (Patrick Wilson) is well done. Dalton is in a coma for unknown reasons and the family brings him home to care for him in the long term. Three months has past and the doctors do not have any answers. We have to assume that nothing strange went on in the house while he was gone. When he gets back though boy the weird starts, voices over the baby monitor, faces behind curtains, horror angles of shooting low and from above. The film does a nice job having the haunting stuff primarily effect and isolate Renai, she sees the majority of the oddities. It is this reviewers wish that the scary would have been more frequent prior to the switch over to solving the problem. This also puts the focus away from Josh who plays a much larger part later.
The film gets us thinking that the problem is that Dalton is haunted and then Josh's Mom (Barbara Hershey) comes into the picture. She is the true believer with friends who believe also. I don't want to give away the twist her which makes it hard to describe the plot. A team of helpers similar to the all too famous Poltigeist (1982) arrive and we move towards the inevitable seance scene. I believe this is where the film starts to come apart, moving away from the established plot we head in a new direction and learn new information about Josh that turns the film on its side. The scares are still great because something has to happen to change the Skeptical Josh into enough of a desparate character that he will participate in the final solution.
The final third of the film really didn't work. It is a dreamscape that Josh must navigate because he also has the ability just like his son to enter the "Further", which is the most ridiculous name for limbo that I have heard. Like Orpheus entering hades for a chance to bring his wife back or like Rose Da Silva running around Silent Hill he has to go find his son.
The scary in the Further is freaky and strange with two kinds of beings, ghost who want to get back into this world and the more sinister demons that want in so they can cause everyone harm. The main demon in this film is a Lipstick demon who is all black in skin tone and smears red lipstick all over his face making him look like a lanky Darth Maul. I have to admit that the film started losing me when the psychic Elise Ranier (Lin Shaye) told us about the Further, then when they reveal the information about Josh I was like "okay, whats next", then when he goes looking for his boy and has to confront Darth Maul every is a bit over the top. "Josh follow my voice, follow my voice honey." Fuck that shit. Did the whole neighborhood see the house shaking? Oh the stupidity of those final scenes. When watching this with my daughter I looked over at the end of the final sequence and said. You know this ain't over something came back with him. That way we can all look forward to the sequel. So although there is a fair amount here that can be considered in a favorable light there is also so much more that is suspect. Although this team are correct in thinking there were many films in the horror genre that approached there plot twist but there are a few. Basket Case (1982) broaches the subject, Awake (2007) sort of touches the edges of it. Flatliners (1990) also in a way. This is certainly the best but I am not sure in the end they sold the premise. At least as not as well as Poltigeist did. A final note, whether it was a product placement or just an actors choice to do something while in a scene, Wilson putting skin cream around his eyes was so lame. Really we are now going to have guys skin care products really? So worried about those crows feet that ya gotta slather on some magic cream? Geeze Dude Man Up we all age.
Rating (5.6) 5.0 and up are recommended in the Zombiegrrlz system I would RENT IT!