The movie opens as the Lambert family moves into a large old house, one that has an Amityville persona and soon becomes a menacing character in this film. With numerous rooms, corridors, staircases, and dimly lit, it’s easy to assume something is lurking in the shadows, waiting to entrap.
For a while, the move appears normal, but then Renai (Rose Byrne) senses something amiss when she finds books tossed from the book shelve where she placed just minutes ago. Their son (Ty Simpkins) explores the house and while in the attic falls off a treacherous ladder, hitting his head and later going into a coma. Tests reveal no head trauma.
Renai feels something strange is happening. She finds her box of music has mysteriously moved to the attic. In addition, doors and windows are opening by themselves. Soon she’s seeing startling apparitions, people moving by the windows. Her husband (Patrick Wilson) doesn’t give her sightings much credence and begins working late where he teaches grading papers. His mom, (Barbara Hershey) tells Renai she’s imagining things. Yet she helps them hire a psychic (Lin Shaye) to find a solution.
The psychic sends over her two ghostbusters (Angus Sampson and screenwriter Leigh Whannell) to analyze the house for disturbances. Their incompetence as paranormal investigators is quite evident and it adds some comic relief to an otherwise somber story. When the psychic arrives, she is seriously alarmed. She’s seen similar cases before. It’s not the house that’s haunted she says; it’s their son.
What follows is a surrealistic intervention where the astral-projecting phenomenon is explained and the lost-soul spirits are called forth. Wan, the director balances a familiar tale with a couple of novel plot twists and these will have you on edge through the final minutes. One could feel manipulated as you journey through this story, yet for the masochistic audience that enjoys a scary spine-tingling trip, this is definitely your ride.
As for the insidious creatures that wanted to inhabit young Dalton’s body, they gave the story an eerie presence initially. Yet soon there were so many that their menacing powers were diluted and they’ve lost their impact. Another flaw is the complexity of paranormal activity. This explanation has so many layers that one soon looses the shrewdness and scariness of the story.
Of all the supernatural characters, the most insidious is the Old Women portrayed by Philip Friedman. Her presence is terrifying in that she’s the most powerful, for when inhabiting the living she actually kills. Moreover, as the story ends, of all the life-hungry beings residing in this story, only she survives and… she’s still out there. Sequel?
Production credits are first-rate. The muted colors gave the film an almost black and white look of period horror film. Joseph Bishara’s music leads us through this maze punctuating the horrific moments. Aaron Sims’ production design gives the film an environment where the paranormal can truly reside. The script tends to be more of a competition than that of focusing on the terror the participants feel. In fact, the concept might also serve well as a video game where ghostly creatures are matched against one’s own phobias and the ability to protect one’s family from being inhabited.
CREDITS: “Insidious” stars Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Andrew Astor, Lin Shave, Barbara Hershey, Leigh Whannell, and Angus Sampson. David M. Brewer and John R. Leonetti – Cinematographers; Joseph Bishara – Composer; Aaron Sims – Production Designer; Kirk M. Morri and James Wan – Editors; Oren Peli and Steven Schneider – Producers; Leigh Whannell – Writer; James Wan – Director. Produced by Alliance Films, Automatik Entertainment & Blumhouse Productions. Distributed by FilmDistrict. Rated PG-13. 103 Minutes. Available on DVD.