SXSW ’11 – Insidious – Review


Blood and guts don’t bring the scares, this PG-13 horror does.

Horror fans are very familiar with writer/director team James Wan and Leigh Wannell for creating the Saw franchise. Their only other collaboration outside of the most successful horror franchise in history has been the extremely disappointing puppet horror flick Dead Silence, until now. Being such a huge fan of the Saw movies, I always eagerly and nervously await the next film by Wan and Wannell. Insidious had its premiere late last year at the Toronto Film Festival, and Wan and Wannell were present for the premiere at SXSW.

In Insidious, Josh and Renai (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) are a happily married couple with three adorable children. They’ve just moved into a new house and their oldest boys, Foster and Dalton, sense something sinister about their home. One evening, Dalton ventures upstairs into the attic, falls, and ends up in a coma. It doesn’t appear to be a typical medical coma however, and the doctors soon send him home with a full hospital bed and a visiting in home nurse.

After Dalton’s return home, stay at home mom Renai begins experiencing creepy happenings ranging from whisperings on the baby monitor to loud banging noises. She finally convinces Josh to move out of the house, but this is only when the real trouble begins.

Insidious is an effectively scary film to its very core. Much like the first Saw movie relied on a clever concept instead of big budget effects for scares, Insidious has some of the most creepy images I’ve seen onscreen in a very long time. This movie reduced me to a scared little girl hiding under her covers at the shadows in her room, the fear of what might be behind the closet door. The score is also effective, reminiscent of The Shining, although the sound was probably a little high at the SXSW screening I attended.

Where the film lacks in writing – there are some cheesy lines, and the relationship with Josh and Renai isn’t as clearly defined as I would have liked – it more than makes up for it in scares. Much needed comic relief is provided by Leigh Wannell and Angus Sampson as ghost hunters. And although Barbara Hershey gets the recognition as Josh’s mother, it’s the amazing Lin Shaye who really steals the show.

Insidious is rated PG-13, but don’t let that scare you away. The images in this film are scarier than those I’ve seen in ANY horror film of any rating in recent memory. Keep in mind that Saw-like blood, guts, cursing, and nudity aren’t the images that frighten you into a shuddering ball under your covers at night. The images in Insidious will do that.

Director: James Wan
Notable Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, Lin Shaye, Leigh Wannell
Writer(s): Leigh Wannell

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