Movie Review: “Insidious”

Written by Josh Litman May 01, 2011

Insidious is a horror flick that comes from the makers of Saw and Paranormal Activity. And yes, it succeeds at scaring the sh*t out of you.

Without spoiling too much, Insidious revolves around married couple Renai (Rose Byrne) and Josh (Patrick Wilson) and their family as they begin to suffer relentless haunting experiences. On top of this, their son goes into some sort of coma and won’t wake up. From this point onward, things pretty much suck for them.

The acting is surprisingly good for a horror movie. Sure, the dialogue is predictably wooden at times, but the actors really do their best to make the characters feel real. The chemistry between Byrne and Wilson feels especially believable, despite the constant distraction of how ridiculously good looking both of them are (yeah, I don’t care if that’s a legitimate complaint or not).

While Saw director James Wan helmed the film, the movie feels much closer to Paranormal Activity…at least, in the beginning. While the haunted house setup does persist throughout the film (despite the explanation being a tad more unique than that), the film thankfully takes off in some unexpected directions. However, with these unexpected changes in direction comes some unexpected changes in tone.

Partway through the movie, two ghostbusters seemingly show up out of nowhere, bringing some comic relief along with them. The problem is, this development produces an abrupt change in tone that makes things feel like a new director suddenly stepped in and took charge. Or maybe James Wan simply has multiple personality disorder, I don’t know. My point is, perhaps the film would have benefitted from at least hinting to the audience beforehand that these characters that show up later on really existed in the world from the start. Indeed, this might have made their eventual appearance feel less jarring.

On a more positive note, I couldn’t help but notice how well shot this movie is. It’s not every day I’d describe a horror movie as beautifully shot, but this one fits the bill. The camera also has this clever swaying motion that helps subtly amp up the tension. Really, if you pay attention, you’ll see what I mean; it definitely gives the viewer that feeling of uneasiness throughout.

Speaking of tension/uneasiness, the film does resort to loud, dissonant music/sounds to build up the dread. But hey, it works, right? Scares are scares, jumps are jumps, cheap or not. At least Insidious doesn’t resort to gruesome torture porn; in fact, there is virtually no gore to be found here at all. Again, the scares might be cheap at times, but at least they’re real.

Finally, I have a bit of a mixed feeling when it comes to the last act of the film. Conceptually, the last act takes the film to a whole new level of awesome; however, it kind of leaves a little to be desired execution-wise. The final act is no failure, not by any measure — in fact, it happens to be a lot of fun. It’s just that the viewer is expecting more, visually-speaking, given the build-up prior. Then again, there is also something rather traditional about the way the filmmakers went about shooting the last act. I guess it’s just a matter of taste, but personally, I was hoping for a more visually immersive experience near the end.

Here’s the bottom line: Insidious is worth seeing. It’s one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in a long time. I’m usually not the biggest fan of horror flicks in general simply because I feel filmmakers try too hard to deliver gross-out imagery and jump-scares instead of a decent plot and/or convincing performances from the cast. Insidious bucks the trend, however. It’s a fun, haunted thrill ride and you should go see it.

If you dare, that is…

My Rating: 8.5/10


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About Josh Litman

Josh Litman

Director/producer/writer/actor/editor/cinematographer/musician/neuroscientist… Josh prides himself on being simultaneously awesome and modest. In addition to We Eat Films, Josh also produces his own work (films, writing) under the banner of Action Potential Productions and has his own website, too, where his handiwork can be viewed: www.actionpp.com -- or www.joshlitman.com (if you prefer).

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