James Wan nails the creepy atmosphere with Insidious. The film is flawed, mainly because it never figures out exactly what it wants to be, but it still works on most levels because of this perfect atmosphere. From the screeching song that plays over the opening credits to last 25 minutes of a darkly lit and fog induced haunted house, Insidious establishes itself as a creepy horror film that chooses to rely on its thick atmosphere and excellent performances, instead of your usual blood and gore.
Insidious feels like a well needed breath of fresh air in modern mainstream horror. Horror has taken a slump recently; Hollywood blockbusters have become lazy, skimping on story and plot, instead relying on tons of gore and blood or no acting ability but a shaky camera and cheap tricks. Insidious manages to bring us back to a more classic feel. It does rely on cheap jump scares, but the buildup is near perfect. The music is so damn creepy and unsettling. The film has a washed out look with tons of dark colors and grays. The pacing is slow, but it picks up towards the end and the saving grace is really the performances. That’s right, a horror film that relies on build up and performances!
If it wasn’t for Rose Byrne playing the strong mother and Patrick Wilson playing the father with an interesting past, Insidious would have failed. The two leads manage to give us characters that have emotion and range.
Josh (Patrick Wilson) is a school teacher by day and a dad by night. He’s a loving father that is quiet and lovable. He has a great relationship with his kids and his wife, but when his son goes into a random coma, his past starts to come front and center. I loved the gentle unraveling of the character of Josh. He started out like your everyday father, but by the end of the film he became a very pivotal point in the plot and only a fine actor like Patrick Wilson could deliver such an innocent performance, followed by rage.
Renai (Rose Byrne) is the upbeat mom who is the backbone for the family. She’s the caretaker of the kids while trying to pursue her own career in music. When things in the house start to randomly get misplaced and voices start to speak through baby monitors, Renai loses it. Rose really manages to play that mom who loses her grasp on what’s real and what’s fake. She doesn’t want to believe that she is hearing voices, she spends the first chunk of the film trying to prove that it’s fake, but it eventually starts to consume her. By midpoint you notice her face has become lifeless, her tone and mannerisms change and more importantly, her hope is slipping away.
The rest of the cast is suitable, but Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson are really the glue of Insidious. They stick together what otherwise can be called as a messy film. It has elements of strong horror and old school scares, but it also has that sort of homage appreciation like Drag Me to Hell. It doesn’t work as well as Drag Me to Hell because it never tries to fully become aware of its silliness. Instead, it drops jokes in from time to time, to break up the pace and then it jumps right back into super serious mode.
When it’s serious, it works a lot better than Paranormal Activity because of its real cast and actual tension. It doesn’t simply rely on making you jump because something pops out, oh no, it builds up the tension with the setting, camera angles, lighting and music and then when the jump happens, it becomes much more scary and much more meaningful.
But all of this feels unbalanced. The first part of the film establishes said tone and it builds up to a creepy conclusion, but the last 25 minutes or so feel like an entirely different movie. While this different movie is good, it just doesn’t fit with what was previously presented to us. It feels like a rushed ending that tries to throw in all of these different spooky ideas at once with no real payoff. The last few minutes are awesome, because they’re dark and ballsy, but they feel empty.
I have problems with Insidious, but in the end I think the good outweighs the bad.
To read my full theatrical review of Insidious click here.
Video: Insidious sports a very solid 1080p transfer, thanks to Sony. The film was shot digitally and I think that it benefits from that. The colors are very dark, gray and brooding, which suits it just perfectly. The image itself is clear and crisp with no real problems noticeable. The film might give off a dull and lifeless vibe, but that’s exactly what director James Wan was looking for and it has been replicated to near perfection on Blu-ray.
Audio: The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track for Insidious is suspenseful and chilling. As I said above, one of the key elements of the film is the creepy music and the audio transfer provides us with a very clear representation of said music. Most of the sound comes from the front channels, like the dialogue and general music, but the back speakers work very well for those jump scares and quick music cuts. If I had to describe the audio track with three words, it would be simple but effective.
Insidious comes with a rather lame set of special features, which are all presented in high definition.
- Horror 101: The Exclusive Seminar (HD): James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell discuss the making of the film, including different elements and themes like the haunted house factor and general brooding tone. It’s a good feature that shows their dedication to the project, but it feels just a bit too short.
- On Set with Insidious (HD): A behind the scenes feature that includes cast and crew interviews among other general topics.
- Insidious Entities (HD): A look at the films hideous and scary creatures.
- Trailers (HD): Trailers for other Sony titles.
Overall, Insidious is a creepy and effective horror movie, but it certainly has its flaws, which keep it from being perfect or even considered to be a really good horror film. It’s good in the fact that it relies on character development and depth plus a heart pounding score that really beefs up the mood. But it fails to be anything amazing because of its shaky motives and inconsistent tone. Still though, James Wan has managed to make another horror film that is worth checking out, especially since Sony gave it great picture and audio transfers. The special features are lacking, but the film is still worth a rental for horror fans looking for something other than Paranormal Activity to scare them. Is Insidious perfect? No, not at all, but it’s better than most shit getting pumped out these days and it manages to do it all with a PG13 rating!
Movie – 7.5/10
Special Features – 4/10
Click Here to buy Insidious from Amazon.com