A revisit to the haunted house genre of old, Insidious’ (2010) theatrical release earlier this year was met with high expectations with James Wan (Saw) and Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity) sharing direction and production credits. Their mesh of claustrophobic dread and supernatural horror certainly delivers the jumps you’d expect, but unlike their previous works, Insidious lack of creativity makes for a rather uninteresting narrative.
Starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins and Lin Shaye, Insidious goes through all the traditional horror motions. A young couple and their children move into a new house and soon find their belongings being shifted around by a strange presence. Their son is knocked into an inexplicable coma and as events become increasingly violent, they are forced to leave, only to find that the spectre is still with them. As the family’s paranoia intensifies, they hire a local ‘ghostbusting’ team out of sheer desperation, who identify the being as a demonic force trying to possess their son’s body.
Insidious’ ‘paint by numbers’ approach works surprisingly well alongside a number of horror tropes borrowed from other films, namely The Amityville Horror (1979) and Richard Donner’s The Omen (1976). By the third act however, the film’s plot becomes so convoluted and caught up in itself that the concept bridges absurdity. It’s a film where expressions like ‘astral projection’ and ‘entering The Further’ are supposed to make complete sense, without any real explanation being offered.
At least by forsaking the story, Insidious doesn’t forget about the scares. Almost everything in the film has the potential to make you jump, and a lot of them are completely unexpected, never really giving you the chance to rest. If (like me) you’re the kind of person who’ll cower in bed and whimper when floorboards creak, then Insidious will deliver; if, however, your numb to loud noises and “boos”, then the film could feel quite dull.
Ultimately, Insidious’ greatest flaw is that without the scares the film has little else to offer. The tangled narrative and overindulgence on horror references – from wacky ghostbusters to freaky Chucky-like dolls – only just manage to cover the cracks of an overcomplicated plot.