Directed by: James Wan
Premise: The parents (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) of a comatose boy confront ghosts that intend to take over their son’s body.
What Works: Insidious is a fun and scary haunted house film. Insidious is rated PG-13, which is usually a bad sign for a horror film, but this picture works because the focus is on building a frightening atmosphere rather than mutilating as many body parts as possible. Insidious uses sound really well, including music and audio effects when necessary but also allowing silence to fill the soundtrack and set the audience up for a shock. Borrowing the style and techniques of films like The Shining and Poltergeist, Insidious tells the tale of a family haunted by otherworldly forces and the picture establishes characters early on and develops them along with the escalating threat of the haunting. The couple, played by Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, have a convincing relationship and the challenges to their marriage first by their son’s medical problems and later by the haunting create a strain that first drives them apart and later strengthens the marriage as they are made to work together. Insidious also cleverly avoids the main problem of the haunted house film, in which characters stay in a place that they know is hostile to them. The incapacitated boy becomes a device for keeping the family tethered to the threat and forces them into a confrontation with it.
What Doesn’t: The special effects of Insidious vary. Some of the makeup effects on the ghosts are creepy and effective but others, particularly a computer generated demon, look really terrible. Apparently the filmmakers recognize this and only show the demon in quick, fleeting shots.
Bottom Line: Despite a PG-13 rating, Insidious is a successful horror film. It is atmospheric and creepy and it tells a compelling story.
Episode: #335 (April 17, 2011)