If you have to steal, steal from the best. That must have been James Van's motto when he was making “Insidious”. The film is filled with scenes that leave you with the sense of deja vu when you see them. Scenes that are clearly inspired by the legendary movies of horror genre such as “The Shining”, “Rosemary's Baby” and “Poltergeist”. It's hard to see something original in cinema nowadays. Everything has been already shown, told, shot. But the thing with horror movies is that they have to achieve just one thing in order to succeed. They have to scare us.
From the chilling beginning to the very end “Insidious” wrecks your nerves. Shadows, ghosts, demons, distant footsteps, scary little girls, creepy old lady, weird paintings, mandatory twist in the end, ghost hunters – all the ingredients are here. But there is something more – the awareness. The creators know full well that they are using cliches and familiar tricks. They don't try to pretend and they simply make the most of it. It all works because they focused their attention on scaring the audience. Watching “Insidious” is like taking a tour around haunted house attraction. You expect what's inside, you suspect what lies ahead, but you still experience fear.
Out of all the movie genres, horror was always my favorite. Dark, gloomy atmosphere that is always a treat to see on screen was always more enjoyable for me than sunny skies and smiling people in romantic comedies. “Insidious” has such atmosphere - although the events take place in the house inhabited by a family there is no warmth there – everything seems sad, cold, unwelcoming. Later on in the movie, although the action still takes place in the same house, the screen beams with red and fire. All because the setting changes to surreal place called “The Further” - creepy dimension some are able to travel to when they sleep. It's not a dreamland all right. It's like being in the middle of the nightmare and the movie makes terrific job taking us there.
“Insidious” reminded me of two quite new horror movies - “Jeepers Creepers” and “Drag me to hell”, both very fine examples of good horror films. The usage of happy music during creepy sequence took me back to the ending of first film and the title card appearing in the beginning and the end to the latter. “Insidious” also impresses with the usage of music – dead silence is cut short with loud violin that repeats itself many times during the film. To be honest if I heard that sound now I'd probably pee myself since it's associated in my mind with every single creepy image in the movie. I prefer, though, when something appears on screen without backup signalization. Fortunately, “Insidious” has such moments. Pay close attention to the surroundings right before Renai sees dancing boy. You'll notice him on the left, facing the wall, silently standing there. That took me back to “The Blair With Project” and the memory of that alone is enough to scare me. Nods and homages work fantastically there precisely for that reason – not only they frighten you but they also remind you of the original that scared you.
There are some scenes that, whilst did not keep from walking around the house when it was dark, chilled my blood and shook me. The best horrors leave us scared days, weeks, years later of the things we weren't scared before. Some people freaked out about bath tubs after “What lies beneath”. Some couldn't go into the woods anymore after before mentioned “The Blair With Project”. I for one will never again be able to view photos on my camera without shaking.
The film has its flaws - the worst being, as usual with her, Rose Byrne. Her and January Jones are like a plague, they will taint every movie they are in. When they were both on screen in “X Men first class” I actually had to close my eyes not to see Jones's bland and Byrne's retarded expressions. Byrne is without a doubt in my mind one of the worst actresses around. She is like a rag doll, her characters always have the personalities of potatoes because of her “acting”. Here she is, mother of sick child, wife of a man who keeps avoiding facing his problems, finally – inhabitant of haunted house. And what does she do? Well, nothing. She looks as if she was playing a zombie, moving around, opening her mouth etc. The only time she actually pulled off a nice performance was in “Get him to the Greek” and I suspect she was drunk at the time. How else would that stiff gal lose up? Since imdb tells me it's her birthday best wishes are in order. I wish you changed your job.
Patrick Wilson does well laying the guy who literally has to face up his demons to save his son. He is not a very likeable character, but he does something admirable and wins audience's trust. He has flaws – his vanity and carefree attitude when his wife needs him – but he still steps up and does the right thing. We also get to see Barbara Hershey, who recently scared audience in “Black Swan” and has a little bit of experience with ghost stories ever since “The Entity”.
If you love horrors you have to see this one – it's the best horror film since “The Others” and scarier than “The Ring”. Out of the horror films made in the last few years I can only think of one (I have not seen [REC] yet) that was better – masterful “The Descent” after which I seriously took a flashlight to go to the bathroom during the night. There are two funny things about “Insidious” - it's not original nor anybody expected it to be, but it is refreshing. Horror movie without severed body parts, stupid teenagers being slaughtered and of course – 3d so that limbs could more joyfully fly all over the screen. Second amusing fact is that James Van made the first “Saw” movie and actually started the flood of blood in horror genre. Who knew he could actually scare us without a single drop of it.