on 16 July 2011
Not many films scare me these days. Mostly it's all gore or cheap shocks. But gut-churning scares are something of a rarity. Insidious, the new film from Saw director, James Wan, has chills and creeps a-plenty, with the obligatory jump-out-of-your-seat shocks thrown in for good measure.
Josh and Renai Lambert (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) have three kids, two young boys and a baby girl. Soon after moving into a new house, weird stuff starts happening: strange noises, glimpses of figures, the usual. When Rose is attacked by a spectral figure and their son, Dalton, ends up in a coma-that's-not-really-a-coma, they decide to move house again.
Obviously this doesn't help and Josh's mum (Barbara Hershey) calls in a psychic, Elise, and her team to help. Turns out it's not the houses that were haunted, but Dalton. You see, the young scamp can astral project himself to a place Elise calls The Further. Unfortunately, he's strayed too far and got lost, unable to find his way back to his body, which is now an empty vessel attracting spirits and demons like flies around... you know.
Luckily, the ability to project astrally is genetic (hard science!), so Josh has to go in and bring back his son before the big bad can get his literal claws into him.
Doesn't sound too scary, does it? Actually sounds a bit like a rip-off of Poltergeist. Yeah, well, it is a bit. But it's a flippin' scary one!
From the outset, you are peering into dark corners, wondering if you saw something there. Was that a face at the window? Did somebody walk by that open door just then? There's plenty of that and all's well and good while that's going on. It's when the astral projection sub-plot arrives that things go a bit awry.
The movie is terrifying right until Josh enters his astral state and then it all gets a bit Twilight Zone. Sure, there are some scares to be had and the demon is petrifying to look at (kind of like Darth Maul on a really bad day), but it all seems removed from the main body of the film, as though they came up short in the writing and had to add another fifteen pages to pad it out. As I said, a bit too much like Poltergeist.
Apart from that, however, I really, really enjoyed Insidious and I don't mind telling you, it did creep me out so much that I contemplated leaving the landing light on (I didn't in the end and every tiny sound in the house suddenly became amplified a zillion percent!). One of the producers of the film was Oren Peli, he of Paranormal Activity fame, and there was more than a hint of that film in Insidious.
By the way, watch the film and try to guess the budget... I'll wait here until you get back.... Done that? Not bad, eh? Anyway, did you guess the budget? Me neither, but apparently, the budget for Insidious was a paltry $1.5million. A million and a half bucks!! That wouldn't pay for the bowls of M&Ms on a big studio picture. For that alone, I am willing to cut the film a whole bunch of slack and recommend it to anybody who wants the willies scaring out of them.