“Insidious” is an affectionate visit to haunted house movies which is a horror genre that seems classic in contrast to the shaky-cam gorefests that we have come to expect in the modern era. It depends on characters, atmosphere and mounting dread. I first saw it when it was released in cinemas in 2010 in which I vaguely remember certain aspects of the movie and recall creepy moments that I found particularly scary at time and trust me there are quite a few. Since my memory for the movie was quite blurred, I decided to view it once more and determine whether it’s as effective watching it alone at night as it was in a packed cinema screen.
It opens with some sweeping shots of a young boy asleep in his bed until suddenly the camera focuses on a shadowy figure standing outside of the boys blind covered window. Out of nowhere some seriously creepy music kicks in as the camera zooms down a corridor towards a mirror which contains the image of an old, decayed woman covered in a dark vale and then the word “Insidious” flashes onto the screen with demonic music that will ring in your ears for days. I have to say that I found this opening to be really excellent, it sets up the movie really well and even had me questioning whether or not I should keep going and it was only two minutes in! The soundtrack used here and throughout the film of screeching violins is possibly the scariest I have ever heard and it’s used to great effect.
Next we get a nice introduction of the main characters of the film; a married couple, Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai (Rose Byrne). They just moved into a beautiful old house with their two young sons and a new baby. The early scenes in the film establish the characters very clearly. Renai is the stay at home mother and Josh is the loving, but somewhat absent husband. Some may find the first 20 minutes or so to be rather slow and boring but personally I prefer to get to know the characters before they begin to get slaughtered.
As the family adjusts to their new home, Renai begins noticing unusual events in the house (classic horror movie stuff like the books being moved from one place to another). Their oldest son Dalton also seems aware of something faintly sinister lurking in the shadows. While exploring the attic, Dalton is spooked off of a ladder and bumps his head. The next morning, Dalton simply doesn’t wake up. Josh and Renai turn to doctors who run Dalton through a variety of tests, but nobody can explain the boy’s coma (clearly these doctors don’t watch scary movies).
Over the next couple of months, Renai does her best to look after Dalton while he lies still in his comatose state. At this point I was starting to wonder when something would actually happen until one night while putting her other son to bed ( his name eludes me) he mentions that he would like to change rooms because Dalton scares him when he gets up at night….…
The day after that is when the fun really begins, there are a series of very effective jump scares that really tap into the psyche of anyone that’s been alone in a house and felt as if something was watching them. One of my favourite moments is when Renai hears very faint whispering over a baby monitor only for it to turn into a loud shout while she has it pressed against her ear. She runs into the baby’s room and sees a pale man standing beyond the crib; I absolutely love moments like these because it’s done in a way so that you see the jump scare at the exact same time as the character and it scared the heck outta me.
Another moment that deserves a mention is when Renai goes outside to take out the thrash and then suddenly catches a glimpse through a window of Dalton dancing around to some very eerie war time music, the tension that moments like these and others create are fantastic. I’ve criticized the overuse of jump scares in horror movies, but I don’t think that’s an issue here. Almost every scare is set-up and executed well with the additional elements of the film (score, cinematography, etc.)
Eventually, Renai persuades her husband to leave the house. In what is quite a smart bit of writing, Josh agrees with his wife and they move. I hate how in haunted house movies, there’s always someone who wants to stay, Why? I’d be gone in a second if my wife wanted to leave and especially when she showed me huge bloody handprints on my son’s bedsheets. Unfortunately for them it’s not the house that is haunted and the creepy events continue and even to the point of Josh himself being given reason to believe.
What’s a family to do? Why, bring in a psychic medium of course. The film’s obligatory séance scene, which could have been rehashed from past horror films, is given a unique twist and makes for one of the movie’s most effective moments. We learn more of Josh’s past and are given a really interesting story arc behind the reasoning for him not having his picture taken.
The rest of the film revolves around Renai and Josh’s efforts to save their son from slipping away from them forever. Astral projection, demonic possession, and other issues are brought up, but always intelligently and with certain realism that allows the film to be that much scarier. The third act of the movie does have some very low points in which too much visibility and an over use of CGI ruin the mystery of the main villain. Also for some strange reason it decides to drop any subtlety it had left and go a little over the top, that’s not saying that I didn’t enjoy it still but it’s just a little disappointing.
Considering this is a movie made by the creator of SAW and looking at its age rating, Insidious isn’t scared to pull any punches and is thoroughly entertaining as well as been surprisingly funny at times. Patrick Wilson does a good job here and the characters are relatable enough, although their attitudes at the end of the movie really confused me and were a little too up beat for my liking.
“Insidious” is a great, creepy film. It’s refreshing to watch a horror film full of genuine scares, practical effects and that has an ending that’s just downright chilling. I look forward to seeing what goes down in Insidious 2.
Insidious is an original haunted house horror movie that shares elements with previous horror titles such as; Poltergeist and House On Haunted Hill. Its jump scares are effective because of the creepy soundtrack and the ways in which its filmed and builds tension. So to answer the question, is Insidious a movie that will scare the heck out of you if you watched it alone late at night? Yes, yes it will.