This isnít the greatest horror film ever made and itís not the worst either. Quiet creeping dread, flash visions and screeching violins are its weapons of choice, the filmís modus operandi and it works, there are moments of shock and things leaping out of nowhere, grinning dead people, creepy stuff.
Thereís negligible blood, no weapons, no psycho-sexual torture or deep sickness.
It has more to do with Paranormal Activity and the Blair Witch Project than Saw and thatís saying something because the film was written by Leigh Whannell and James Wan the brains behind the Saw franchise. They are members of the Splat Pack.
The Splat Pack is a loose conglomeration of todayís wildly violent, R-rated horror filmmakers, who offer up stuff we could not have imagined ten years ago but which is now part of the daily cinematic diet Ė Saw (made by the makers of Insidious) Hostel, The Devilís Rejects, Machete, and the upcoming Hobo with a Shotgun, The Hills Have Eyes, etc..
So compared to their previous work, Insidious is a pleasant walk in the park. Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne are married with three children and have just moved into a new, big, cavernous, old house where they hope their lives will improve, over what, weíre not told. So the stage is set for a family already nursing grudges to fall down a dark well of fear.
At first they ignore the random sounds of the house, talking or playing music over them. Things are messed up, but it could be one of their children, it could be that Roseís character, already a tad depressed, is imagining things. But when their eldest son falls into a coma for no apparent reason, they figure itís time to call in the psychics.
Two young keeners with homemade equipment for detecting ghost and ectoplasm and energy vibrations provide a ďscientificĒ examination of the events for the scoffers in the audience and provide comic relief. Their boss, a tiny, elderly and powerful woman immediately intuits that something is rotten in Denmark. She warns them to steel themselves for danger and takes them on a horrific journey into the spirits of the spirits in order to save their son.
It seems the newly dead want his body to inhabit so they can come back to earth and enjoy themselves as human beings once again. They are lurking about like vultures at a car accident. Thatís the idea.
The fear factor in Insidious is not as high as we might wish; it sets a creepy tone and manages to scare, titillate and engage, but I doubt anyone will be screaming or running for the exits.
Itís a new twist for the makers of Saw, in which the tone must be carefully set, and a milieu established in which excessive, bloody, violence is unlikely. Itís not the easy way out. Insidious is something altogether different and they do an okay job.
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Written by Leigh Whannell
Directed by James Wan
Opens: April 1
Runtime: 102 minutes
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for thematic material, violence, terror and frightening images, and brief strong language