Elise Reiner: It’s not the house that is haunted. It’s your son.
Director: James Wan
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Angus Sampson & Leigh Whannell
Synopsis: A family that moves into a new house experience supernatural occurrences which lead to their son falling into a coma.
Insidious directed by Melbourne’s own James Wan is a better than average haunted house tale. At this stage of his career Wan was a confident genre filmmaker with the gore-porn “classic” Saw (2004) under his belt. This film however contrasts to Saw’s over the top blood and violence and instead relies on quieter slow moving build ups to shocks involving excellent use of music and darkness to control the mood he wishes to set. He lets the film slowly build up to its scares without a spot of blood (mostly) throughout the entire picture. This works to his benefit as he uses classic horror conventions and gives them a modern day aesthetic. However all the build up eventually leads to an unsatisfying ending that intentionally baits a sequel.
The story revolves around a family who moves into a new house to not only hear bumps in the night but also their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) slips and falls into a coma, which leads to further mysterious events occurring. The film begins following the conventions of the haunted house formula but about midway through, screenwriter Leigh Whannell (Wan’s regular screenwriter companion) attempts to put a spin on the genre and introduces different dimensions into the mix. The father Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) discovers that as a child he also travelled to other dimensions and must return to save his son. An interesting concept, that for the most part works. Once Josh travels into the other dimension the sophisticated scares from earlier all but diminish as the film unfortunately grows increasingly silly.
The leads Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson provide interesting leads. Byrne plays the scared mother well, recalling Ellen Burstyn’s performance in The Exorcist (1973). In fact this film borrows plenty from older horror films including The Exorcist and imagery from The Nightmare on Elm Street series. This film borrows a lot or relies on these conventions so much that most of the film turns into cliché. Patrick Wilson gives his usual confused everyman performance. In this film it plays into the plot as he is involved with the haunting of his son. Ty Simpkins does a good job as the child who falls into trouble and doesn’t mug for the camera like other children from previous horror entries. It was fun to have Australia’s Angus Sampson and Leigh Whannell as ‘ghostbusters’ who provide some light comic relief. This film is a better version of the Paranormal Activity series and Wan is a strong director. Here he has reinvigorated the genre even though he strongly relies on too many horror clichés.
Rating: 3.5 Stars
*In anticipation of Halloween I’ll be reviewing popular horror films of the past few years.