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Insidious (2010) Review

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I’ve never had the urge to check this film out, even after hearing when it was released how terrifying it was. After an October full of horror films both old and new, I relented and gave this a go. I was very pleasantly surprised. Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne are parents to three children and have moved into their dream home. Their eldest son starts to have problems and soon enters a coma.

Strange things start happening in their home and so they simply move out. This is where I really started to like the film. It was already effectively done, but it applied a tiny amount of logic to the familiar trope of a family moving into a new house that’s haunted, who then proceed to stay there for the whole film. Also, the majority of the plot line where their son is in danger of being possessed by demons happens when he’s just lying in bed asleep. It easily could’ve gone a more predictable route in that respect.

Insidious is a film that does things differently. Yet it also does a lot of typical things too. I loved the idea that their son has a gift for projecting himself when he dreams to other dimensions, and that one of those places is the home of the dead, many of whom want to use his body to come back. When an old woman who is an expert on the subject comes to help them (an unavoidable trope, but done well enough to not hamper things) and explain what’s going on, the real creepy stuff starts to happen.

One aspect that I didn’t particularly enjoy was what most modern horrors seem to do a lot of. Showing too much. It’s all too easy to show only a little bit of your villain, or monster, in a film. And even easier to risk cutting out the tension by showing them completely later on. One of the demons in this film was truly creepy and the scene where the expert Elise is describing frantically what the demon looks like to her assistant was incredible. Of course though, towards the end of the film we see the demon in full, moving around, even where he comes from. This to me just knocked almost a full point off the film, I didn’t feel weirded out anymore, it was just another guy in elaborate makeup.

I think filmmakers feel an obligation to please the audience in showing them the full deal after teasing it the whole time. I think a happy (or scary) medium can be reached with this. Of course sometimes it does work, but you have to have a killer design and it needs to maintain the same aura of terror, which seems to be hard to pull off.

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Either way, I thought Insidious was generally fantastic, with great, relatable performances from Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne and Lin Shaye (who plays the paranormal investigator Elise). It side stepped a good amount of usual horror cliches, while still keeping a few effective ones, and generally had a high level of creepiness, which impresses me, as I’m not easily creeped out.

★★★½

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