The dynamic duo who brought Saw into the world see if they can bring the screams, without the blood.
James Wan and Leigh Whannell have done it again. While not always striking gold, this is the writer/director duo that brought to life one of the biggest horror series ever created in Saw, and this time, with their new film Insidious (directed by Wan, written by Whannell) they took the less gory route, trading in cringing for pure chills, and solid screams.
Insidious begins with the camera scanning through a quiet house in the dead of night, and we, the viewer, watch as it goes from a boy sleeping in his room, to the hallway, around some obstacles, and through a few doors, before finally coming face to face with an old, scary woman, who smiles at us right before the title of the film engulfs the entire screen, accompanied by an extremely loud — almost cheesy, but somehow works old school style — piece of music. That moment is then followed by a quiet montage of parts of the house, as the opening credits play out, but, to my surprise, instead of people getting restless (which can easily happen during quiet intros, and usually does when the audience is filled mainly with younger teens), the theater remained silent, awaiting what came next.
Now, one of the problems with horror films, and many other genres, is that pretty much everything has been done before. Those looking to leave a lasting impression have to either up the ante, or take the old, and freshen it up just enough so that the audience isn’t watching a paint-by-numbers flick, where every scream is anticipated before it happens (For example: the overly used, checks the closet, but it’s empty, only to turn around and come face to face with the extremely quiet friend, who appeared from nowhere, and chose not to say hello until being bumped into routine.) Scares in horror films are a lot like laughs in comedies, as there are set-ups and deliveries to both, but for every person who finds a film scary or hilarious, there’s another who wasn’t shocked, or overly amused at any point. While this will no doubt be the case for some who see Insidious, I felt it was one of the best paced scare-tactic films to hit theaters in quite a while.
The film stars Rose Byrne (Knowing, TV’s Damages) and Patrick Wilson (Watchmen, Lakeview Terrace) as Renai and Josh Lambert, a married couple with three children, who are trying to start fresh in a new home that has just the right amount of creaky floorboards to make you think Nothing good will come from living in this house. Of course, that’s the case, as one day their son, Dalton (Ty Simpkins), doesn’t wake up after going to sleep the night before. The doctors are baffled, and believe the boy to be in a coma, yet with no brain damage, or any sign of distress, it’s unlike anything they’ve seen before. Months pass, and still nothing changes with the boy’s condition, so he is sent back home under the care of his parents.
Soon, events begin happening around the house, and as I hinted at earlier, they’re some of the most effective scare techniques I’ve witnessed in a while. The shocks sent chills through my body constantly, as there was no real pre-emptive warning as are usually found with these types of films. This was refreshing, as the reason you go and see these types of movies are to become wrapped up in the story so much that when things do happen, you’re actually taken back by it and feel as scared as those involved in the film, even if they’re the ones running for their lives while you’re just sitting their holding a bag of popcorn. It’s all in the mind, and this film manipulates the mind so well, that I found myself on edge most of the time, not anticipating the next scare, which only made the movie that much more effective.
The acting in the film is strong from those who carry it, with Byrne leading the way as the main character who is affected by the haunting that has taken over her life. Having watched her for years on the show Damages, I was well aware of Byrne’s emotional range, and her work here is no different, spot-on in her acting as a woman who believes that her life is falling apart all around her, feeling that her husband is distancing himself further and further from the situation. Wilson has a much different role in the film, and he does it quite well. While he does play the protector, and man of the house, at the same time, he does choose to spend more time at work, away from it all, dealing with things in his own way, as he puts it. This was a nice change of pace, as it’s easy to empathize with him, and not believe he’s a horrible father and husband, as people are different and have their own methods of coping, and there isn’t always going to be a united front to battle all that comes.
Wan continues to grow as a director, and this is some of his best work yet. Working as a co-editor on the film as well, it’s his pacing that sets the tone for the journey to be had, and with how well he brings the scares, kudos must go to him. While the film was playing I kept wanting it to end, not because it was bad, but because I wanted to see how they’d bring it all together. I was enjoying it so much, that I was hoping that the ball wouldn’t be dropped in the final act — a time when it usually tends to happen — and lucky for those involved, and those watching, Wan chose to take it all the way in for a touchdown.
Whannell, who also has a role in the film (as he does in all of his collaborations with Wan) does a fantastic job here with the story. Insidious is almost a horror, mystery, thriller, as there are just so many cool ideas being used here, that it really separates itself from what we’ve seen from the genre lately.
If you‘re looking to be scared, Insidious is some of the most fun you’ll have at the movies this year. Is it a game changer? No. But it really has fun with itself, and if you allow it to envelop you as you sit in the theater, it’s quite an experience to be had.
Director: James Wan Notable Cast: Rose Byrne, Patrick Wilson Writer(s): Leigh Whannell
Brendan Campbell was here when Inside Pulse Movies began, and he’ll be here when it finishes - in 2012, when a cataclysmic event wipes out the servers, as well as everyone else on the planet other than John Cusack and those close to him. Brendan’s the #1 supporter of Keanu Reeves, a huge fan of popcorn flicks and a firm believer that sheer entertainment can take a film a long way. He currently resides in Canada, where, for reasons stated above, he’s attempting to get closer to John Cusack.