"Its not the house that is haunted. Its your son"
The horror genre has always depended on scares. We have seen many directors from the classic genre to the modern ones who have all relied on different methods of scare tactics to frighten the audience. From creating a tense atmosphere, scary faces, jump in your seat moments and in rare cases, psychological fear, this genre has always been at risk due to the fact that once an audience gets used to a particular cheap trick by the director, they know what's going to come next and they are prepared for it and hence, they are not scared. Its a big challenge for the film industry, provide out of the box, new thrills which have never been seen before and look fresh to the audience. Although, we have also seen movies using the same old tricks and still scaring the crap out of us. Director James Wan, the creator of the "Saw franchise" brings us a modern horror film which gives us just that and for the most part audience will get what they want in this, if they ignore a few problems in it.
Written by Leigh Whannell, who played Adam in the 2004 thriller "Saw", the plot follows a couple Renai (Rose Byrne) and Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) who move into a new house with their three children-Foster, Dalton and an infant girl Cali. Things start to shake when their son Dalton accidentally goes into a state of coma whom the doctors cannot identify the source of as the rest of his bodily functions are working properly. After being admitted to the hospital for a period of 3 months with no improvements, the couple realize that the coma may be permanent and Dalton will have to be under a supervised parent care forever in the house. After moving him back in, everything goes berserk-from creepy people roaming in the house, to doors opening and closing by themselves, to occasional mix of monster and human growls on Cali's baby monitor. Later on in the plot it is revealed that Dalton has an ability of "astral projection" and his soul has wandered too far into a realm called "The Further" where is soul has been trapped (hence the reason for the coma) by the undead people and they are all waiting to take over his physical body so that they can enter into the human world. An interesting concept explored in the horror genre if you ask me. The rest of the plot revolves around bringing his trapped soul back to the real world and getting rid of all the spirits who want to latch onto his physical body.
"The further is a world far beyond our own,yet it's all around us"
The acting is pretty good, with Rose Bryne playing the terrified mother who always shows a sense of vulnerability and Patrick Wilson playing the vigilant father who has a hard time believing the fact that there are supernatural elements involved here. There are also small comedic reliefs performed by Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson as Specs and Tucker who play the typical geeky and nerdy ghost hunters lead Lin Shaye who plays Elise Rainier who acts as a medium to the audience for the communication of the entire main plot. The pacing of the film was pretty good, most particularly the first half, where Wan tries to slowly build up the suspense and tension through slow moving cameras and scary dialogues. For the hardcore horror fans, there is also a big reference to Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" which is considered one of the most influential horror films of all time. When I noticed that, I couldn't help but smile. And to be perfectly honest, I found the film to be disturbing, most particularly, the ghosts which were portrayed. While none of the ghosts were given a backstory of how they became one, its the unknown about them that makes them all the more scary. This is again one of the tactics employed by horror movie directors, in which the entity, spirit or the ghost's origins are left a mystery to make them more scary and indestructible. The film succeeds in it and will give the audience a genuine scare. The lighting, the flashes and the split second frames of the ghosts on camera are truly terrifying. One of the creepiest sequences in the whole film is Josh's journey in the further to find his son's soul. I won't spoil it for you but make sure you don't close your eyes during the entire scene. Wan accomplished all of these small details without a flaw and if he wanted to scare people, I guess he finally got it.
"Are these the things that I have been seeing?"
With all that said, what was wrong in it? Wan had the perfect ingredients to make a modern, suspenseful, scary and an effective story. Well, first of all it was the fast pacing of the second half of the film which drags it down. The film takes so much time on character development and advancing the plot that once it realized the audience understood everything it rushed itself to a finish. It felt like a wasted effort on the director's part. You don't take so much time to on a suspenseful level to build something and then just finish it just like that. Also, there were a lot of plot holes involved and I am pretty sure you would have them too once the movie is finished. The finale of the film was pretty shaky and it started to feel more like a CGI fest. I agree that some of the scenes were genuinely creepy in the final act as well but it just felt that had the film been following on the same pace as the first half it would have been much more successful and complete. An example can be derived from Wan's own "Saw" where the first half of the film though slow build up the tension and the second half made us more tense by cleverly rushing though at the same time not letting go of its core roots-the feeling of dread and helplessness. That's what I felt the film could have taken care of, most particularly because of Wan's involvement. I believe "The Conjuring" was much better in terms of pacing and story telling.
"Oh my God,dad. He's looking."
With all that said, Insidious is still an enjoyable horror film and its definitely going to be a thrill ride for the normal horror movie lovers. However, for veteran fans of this genre, there may be a certain disappointment. Still, if you look past all its flaws even the veteran fans will get a kick out of knowing that Wan placed references to old classics, scared us with cheap tactics which worked well even though we are so used to them and used some good monster and make up design which made the entities demonic and scary. Also, there is a cliffhanger ending which will immediately crave you for the sequel. Am I going to see it? Of course, because I still want to know and hope there is more to this story than what meets the eye.
My rating- 65%