Possession and astral travel combine for some neck-popping good fun.
Director James Wan decided he wanted something even better than his acclaimed slasher series “Saw” when he went after this psycho supernatural thriller. He had investigated numerous nooks and crannies in the blood a guts genre with “Saw” but wanted something that went beyond that.
Something a bit more cerebral was in order, Like “The Ring,” or coming before that, “Picnic at hanging Rock.” In m ore recent times, Wan and writer Leigh Whannel reference “The Exorcist” and refer to this film as “this generation’s Poltergeist.”
It is impossible to do another “Exorcist,” that cat is out of the bag. There will never be anything as outlandishly creepy and gross as that film, again, ever. At least not along those same lines. “Insidious” is along the same lines but adds a couple twists that allow it to develop its own hideously twisted personality. It is still not quite as good as “Exorcist” but it is close.
It is apparent from the first scenes that haunting is the order of the day. When ten year old Dalton Lambert goes into a coma that cannot be explained by any doctors, no matter how good they are or how sophisticated they sound, that is a done deal (“We have done all the tests, mom and dad, the cat-scans, the brain scans, the infra-red and ultraviolet and thermo-nuclear scans and we have never seen anything like it.
Your son is alive, yet he does not respond to stimuli. It is as if he were in another world somewhere…). You bet he is another world, doc, he is in boot camp with the devil and graduation day is coming soon. There is going to be some big time funky-chicken dancing here and some bloody-mouthed neck cracking as well.
But that is getting ahead of the story. The story is that mom and dad, Renai and Josh (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne), have just moved into a new house to leave the past behind. Ha, the joke is on them, it was not the house that was possessed, but the person. They deserve to be possessed because there have been many evil things that have happened in their past and we get to see them in some very good, very scary flashbacks.
No need for spoilers here but it involves very cute little girls in poofy dresses going after their dignified, knitting, pipe smoking, fireplace-newspaper-reading families with over-sized hunting rifles. Bang-bang. The devil made me do it.
Not only will that kind of behavior get you reported to Child and Family Services but it is a sure sign of possession by You-Know-Who. Yes, possession by the funky-chicken dancing devil himself, Old Nick.
The first person on the scene is grandma Lambert, Lorraine, played by Barbara Hershey, of all people. Hershey does a great job in this role. Her scenes are small, but she is able to be the overbearing mother (just like in “Black Swan”—the mother who bears funky-chicken-dancing children) who keeps her mouth shut and still lets everyone know who’s boss. Grandma says there is more to this coma thing than meets the eye. Duuuuhhh. Need to call in a specialist.
In comes the specialist, Lin Shaye, with her two hilarious ghost-busting flunkies to check out the scene. They gin up a quick sketch and, sure enough, it is bloody-mouthed Nick funky-chicken dancing all over the house. A sure sign of possession and rip-snorting, neck-cracking hijinks to ensue.
In the end there is not just possession but some excellent astral-travel where various family members go into alternate realities and see fantastic scary semi-human creatures while they fight the good fight against the devil and stop the rising tide of kids gunning down their families while they knit and read the paper by the fireplace.
The action scenes are great and, thankfully, most of the film is action scenes because the normal family scenes are lame. Bad acting when everybody tries to be normal. But once the bloody mouths and leaping scaly handed shredding starts, the acting becomes a non-issue.
Astral travel to this one and hold on to your popcorn.
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Directed by: James Wan
Written by: Leigh Whannell
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne and Ty Simpkins
Release Date: April 1, 2011
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for thematic material, violence, terror and frightening images, and brief strong language
Runtime: 102 minutes