Insidious - Movie Review
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There is a certain purity to be found in the horror film genre. These are films meant purely to excite, to engage, and to incite a core reaction that's built into our genes. It's a roller ride without leaving the room. For all extensive purposes, Insidious is a great example. It does exactly what it's supposed to do, and often it does it very well. Things pop out at you, things pop out behind you, and things hang around long after they should have.
I honestly, think this is a really one of the most well made horror movies in a long time. That said, I can't help but shake the feeling that this movie was heavily inspired by Drag Me To Hell, a superior film, I think, but I'll get to why later. Insidious is centered around a common happy family who move in to a house that just so happens to have a distant cousin of Darth Maul living in the attic. Their adventurous young boy ventures up there one day only to fall off a reasonably high ladder and slip into a coma. The real problem however, is that the boy doesn't appear to have any brain damage to speak of. Over the next several months he's cared for by his mother, whose frequent piano practices are cut short by clattering books, slamming doors, and the sounds of screams coming from the baby monitor. These people seriously need a vacation.
Despite only having a PG-13 rating, Insidious knows how to find it's scares without showing too much. It's far more disturbing than most horror movies that opt for blood and guts, and smarter because of it. The film balances an eerie atmosphere well with sudden scares, borrowing pages from Poltergeist, The Shining, Disney's Haunted Mansion, even videogames like Silent Hill. Expect many things to suddenly appear in places they weren't before, and expect them to be gone on a second glance. So much of this film really works.
The film is smart enough to include a bit of light humor with the introduction of a group of paranormal investigators, two of whom bumble about the house with homemade gadgets made from children's toys. The shock is that they actually get the job done. I personally found the viewfinder to be particularly effective. Their boss, played by the wonderful Lin Shaye, is quick to inform the unlucky parents that their son is trapped in a netherworld called "The Further." This, I should add, is technically a spoiler because it occurs in the final half of the film, but I should also note, an entire netherworld is a lot to cover with only a quarter of a movie left to go. The paranormal investigators work so well because they're really very good characters. I'm not sure I can really say the same for the parents. Mostly they're there to get scared.
The film Drag Me To Hell had a lighthearted spirit to it that served a purpose along with the terror. Something actually happened, and something was actually learned. Yes, Insidious does scare, and does so with a clever spirit aiming to entertain, but there isn't much left to be taken away, or taken to heart. There are some truly great moments here. Some with shocking appearances, some with just downright eerie moments. But much like a roller coaster, it will end, the handle bars will go up, and you'll have to get back in line. At least we'll have the memories.