By MARK TURNER
As most readers by now realize I love horror movies. The problem is that over the past few years there have been so few that I’ve enjoyed.
It seems like these days almost all horror films are remakes or sequels. If they are original they turn out to be more along the lines of horror porn than horror film. Then on occasion you find someone who loves horror movies as well and makes them for that audience. Director James Wan is one of those directors.
Wan’s career took off with the first SAW film. While many might think this was the first in the horror porn genre (so named because films in that category dwell more on gory realistic effects than anything else like a story) it actually had more story to it than many movies being released at the time. He then made DEAD SILENCE, a creepy film that featured a ventriloquist dummy in the most terrifying manner. And now Wan has turned loose INSIDIOUS.
The film opens with a family moving into a new house. Mom Renai (Rose Byrne) writes music in her spare time while juggling taking care of three kids. Father Josh (Patrick Wilson) is a teacher. Both are trying to turn this new home into something special. Instead they find something terrifying.
Shortly after moving in their oldest son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) is lured to the attic by a mysterious force and then falls from a ladder. The next morning Dalton is in a comatose state and the doctors are clueless as to why. Three months later there is no change in Dalton but there is in the house. Something evil lurks there, creeping along in the shadows and seen only by Renai. The visitations increase until she convinces Josh that they need to move, which they do.
At their new house things seem brighter and more modern. But the visitations continue, increasing in strength and length. It is at this time that Josh’ mother Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) suggests that a friend of hers come over. Elise (Lin Shaye) is a psychic of sorts who sends her crew in first to check the place out and see if it’s legit or not. Sort of a bumbling duo that seems like a spoof of the numerous ghost hunting shows these days, the two find evidence and call Elise in.
After a quick examination of the house, Elise confirms that they do indeed have a problem. But she also points out that it isn’t the house or the previous house that are haunted. It’s their son, Dalton. Now before someone accuses me of dropping a spoiler on them know that this was seen in the film’s trailer.
What happens next, the visions that are seen and the attempt to rescue Dalton make for a visually frightening film. Add to it a twist that most won’t see coming (I didn’t) and you have a story on hand that should offer a few nightmares to some and a reason to check the windows at night to others.
Wan occasionally uses the old bag of tricks with jump scenes where something pops up out of nowhere. Once in a while the music suddenly blares to let the audience know to pop up out of their seats. But he doesn’t rely solely on these tricks to make us scared. He leads us along with an actual story that draws us in, makes us care and eventually has us rooting for this family. Telling a story that scares us, using visuals and not just jump scenes takes an accomplished director and I see that in Wan.
The acting turned in here is great. It wasn’t until after I sat for a while when the movie was over that I realized we had so little background info on some of these characters. But it didn’t matter. They were all played so well that they became believable and you worry more about them than whether or not the actor is doing a good job.
Visually this movie is as clean as you can get. Starting with shots in an older home with an attic to a newer more suburban home, both offer some scary shots and scenes that will stick with you. Most horror films shot at night or in the dark tend to go overboard and you can’t see what you’re supposed to be looking at. Not so with this film, one that hides what needs hidden and yet lets you feel like you’re there.
As I said, I love horror films. I actually can’t recall the last time one made me lose sleep though and this one probably won’t do that as well. But it did give me a few scares. And it is one I’ll gladly watch again. I never once found myself looking at the clock wondering when it would end. Instead I enjoyed it for the thrill it provided and my guess is you will as well.