I don’t think I have ever been quite so disappointed with a movie as I was with recent box office success Insidious. The trailer to promote this movie looked absolutely amazing, and features one of the most jaw dropping moments I have seen in a trailer in over twenty years (look at the trailer and head to 1.25); and this I guess was part of the fire that fuelled my desire for this movie. I guess you could say its sods law that so much desire and passion was only bound to lead in dissatisfaction.
Insidious starts incredibly strongly, having moved in to a brand new home parents Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai’s (Rose Byrne) lives are turned upside down when one of their sons, Dalton has an accident in the attic of the house, while investigating. At first Dalton look fine, but then slips into a coma, one that sees him return home months later on a life support system. It’s at the moment of return that things get really scary, and for Renai in particular, she sees something that husband Josh seems to miss. Forcing Josh to move, its not long after arriving in their new home, than strange phenomena begins to occur, and as specialists are bought in to investigate, it becomes apparent that something is haunting Dalton.
Insidious is without a doubt a match of two halves, the first portion of the movie is incredibly strong, although it does have some vary badly placed pointers that scream out to the viewer the words OBVIOUS! The screenwriter Leigh Wannell seems to think that their subtle pointers are going unmissed, but they really are incredibly unsubtle, and all we are missing is a little guy with a red flag highlighting them. This aside, the story builds very strongly, with some incredibly creepy scenes of faces and figures in curtains (giving more than just a nod and a wink to Stephen Volk’s Ghostwatch); this is impressive stuff that makes Paranormal Activity look like the sort of thing you might show to your toddler. But then, suddenly and without explanation it all seems to go a bit wrong. The movie seems to suddenly lean heavily on Poltergeist, with one of the parents essentially having to cross over to the other side to save one of their children, battling allsorts of insidious beasties in the process. And then you’re finally presented with the ultimate slap round the face, as the most predictable, uninspired conclusion draws the movie to a close.
You can’t criticize the actors who all do stellar jobs, especially the lovely Lin Shaye who plays Elise Rainer, a sort of Tangina substitute; but infinitely better. There is this most amazing scene where she appears to be talking utter gibberish while her associate creates an image from the gibberish. This is a really magnificent performance from the much-overlooked Shaye, which really builds the tension for the movie. There is also a nice return to the horror scene of Barbara Hershey who really became famous off the back of Poltergeist bonk-romp The Entity back in 1982; here playing Josh’s mother who seems a little too relaxed as the world is falling apart, but in a good way. James Wan’s direction is fine; though maybe he could have worked harder to cover the obvious moments clearly visible from the moment that one of the couple’s sons starts asking about missing photographs.
As the movie goes down a freaky sideline of people in funny outfits, men dressed as women with wigs on; and almost Twin Peak-esque alternate worlds, you do kind of scratch your head, what’s this all about, how’s this happening? Being too questions that go through your head. You’ve not missed something, the plot is painfully transparent, its just not happening; for a die hard horror movie fan it all goes horribly wrong.
Insidious is one of those movies that should really have ended with the trailer; this would have made a great trailer in Tarentino’s Grindhouse, providing nobody actually tried to turn it into a story.