Insidious (2010) Review
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye, Barbara Hershey
Directed By: James Wan
Insidious is essentially about Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) and his wife Renai (Rose Byrne) moving their family into a new house. They have two small boys, Dalton (Ty Simpkins) and Foster (Andrew Astor), and a baby girl. After moving into the house, Dalton becomes interested in playing in the attic and after an unsupervised excursion up there, he falls off of a ladder. Seemingly ok, he goes to bed only to not wake up the next morning. Thinking he’s in some type of head-injury coma, Josh and Renai try all they can at the hospital to get him to wake up. The doctors find nothing wrong with him and simply deem him unable to wake up.
Fast forward three months and Dalton is being set up at home in a hospital bed. Everyone’s life is very stressful now, but having Dalton home and under parental care is all the family seems concerned with. Immediately after returning home, strange things seem to happen. Josh’s mom, Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) comes by and urges Renai in the direction that their home could be haunted. After a serious altercation with what could be a ghost, Renai demands that they move houses. Upon moving into their new home, the Lambert family soon discovers that it may not be the house that’s haunted. Calling in psychic investigator Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye), Josh and Renai find out that there is a lot more going on with their son Dalton as they realize.
All in all Insidious isn’t a bad movie. However, it’s not a great one either. The first hour or so had me hooked. Filled with suspense and tension, Insidious had me until it’s own climax, which is where it seemed to fall apart to me. There were moments in the first hour that actually had me on the edge of my seat and made me jump. It wasn’t cheap scares but instead legitimate and tense scares. Then, within I’d say the last twenty to thirty minutes, the movie felt as if it took a different direction and simply unraveled itself and ultimately left me scratching my head as to why. Does this make it a horrible movie? No. Is it worth watching? Yes. At least once to experience the first hour’s suspenseful build-up and creepy moments.
I’m not going to bash the film, but I felt that the elements that fell flat were a combination of directing and screenwriting. The script was strong until the end and it felt as if screenwriter Leigh Whannell had it together until it was time to tie everything up and conclude the story. This is where I also feel that director James Wan lost it too. Quite possibly because of the script.
Don’t get me wrong, the script and the directing were both very solid… until the end. It wasn’t necessarily a bad climax or third act, but it ultimately felt out of place in regards to the rest of the movie. Having the whole “Less is More” concept going on for the first hour really worked and I would have been happy staying in that realm for the rest of the movie. Only when the filmmakers decide to show everything does the movie head south. The last thirty minutes or so feel more like POLTERGEIST than the movie Insidious worked so hard to set up. It was almost as the first two acts were set up to be Alfred Hitchcock Presents and then switched channels over to Tales from the Dark Side for the third and final act. Does that make either bad? No, but I feel if you set something up one way, don’t just randomly jump to another style or emulate something else for the finish. It just doesn’t work and Insidious is a good example of that happening.
Overall, the acting is great and doesn’t feel out of place from anyone. Rose Byrne actually surprised me and brought a sadness and depth to her role that really resonated with me as I watched the movie. The breakout actor in the film is Lin Shaye. Known for goofball supporting characters and zany roles, Shaye plays the psychic here in a way I didn’t expect. She really stood out in this film and considering the turn the movie took in the third act, she was able to be consistent and really impress with her range.
I won’t go too deep into special FX as the movie really didn’t have a lot. Mostly creepy creature makeup, which wasn’t bad, but it really wasn’t necessary to anything. I felt that the red demon showed at the end was really out of place, as were most of the creepy and random people shown. What stood out to me was the use of shadows, lighting, and random things that make you jump as you watch closely for things that shouldn’t be there.
All in all, Insidious was filled with creepy and scary moments that ultimately went nowhere. It was like a riding a roller coaster, going up that slow hill thinking you’ll be soaring down the other side, only to even out and slow down to a stop. Had the filmmakers retained the same tone until the end and not went out into left field for the climax, I feel Insidious could have been a classic horror film and would have been an instant hit in the horror community. What we have now is a great two thirds of a movie with a horrible final third part for an ending. It’s unfortunate really because Insidious had me and made me feel refreshed to be watching it. Then it lost me and made me wish I was watching something else. This movie really had a lot of potential and for that I won’t totally destroy it with a rating, but I will hit it hard for having a weak and unnecessary final act that left me feeling confused and irritated at the filmmakers.
Stephen J. Semones
ORIGINALLY REVIEWED ON The Back Lot on 09-03-11.