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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Day 193: Insidious

It's Justin Bieber! Kill him!

Everyone loves a good haunted house story. From little girls at a sleepover party to seasoned horror aficionados, there is something special about this genre of horror. It could be because we all hear bumps in the night and are secretly afraid that something supernatural is lurking in the darkness. Perhaps it is just a fear of the unknown. Or maybe we're all just terrified of houses coming to life and eating us while we sleep. Whatever the reason, haunted houses stories go back centuries and span the globe. But what if the house isn't haunted and it's a person that is haunted.

Insidious is a 2010 supernatural horror movie starring Patrick Wilson as Josh Lambert (The A-Team, Watchmen) and Rose Byrne (X-Men: First Class, Bridesmaids) as his wife, Renai. They move into a new house with their three young children, Dalton, Foster, and Cali. Dalton hears something in the attic and goes to investigate. Something scares him and he falls off a ladder, bumping his head. He claims to be alright, but the next day he does not awaken from sleep. Doctors are baffled to his unexplained coma and can only make him comfortable at home. Renai begins to hear strange noises over the baby monitor and see visions of people in the house. Terrified, she convinces Josh that the house is haunted and the family moves to a new location. Unfortunately, the spirits that haunted the previous house appear in the new one. Josh's mother Lorraine enlists the help of her friend Elise Reiner (Lin Shaye, 2001 Maniacs, There's Something About Mary), who deals in paranormal activities. She explains that Dalton is an astral projector and can leave his body when he sleeps. He projected too far and is now stuck in a sort of limbo of tormented souls, which she calls The Further. While stuck in the Further, Dalton's body is an empty vessel and spirits are desperate to enter this world through his body, including a particularly evil demon. She makes contact with Dalton's spirit, but the demon possesses his body and attacks the group. Elise explains that Josh is also an astral projector and was haunted by a spirit when he was younger. He is the only one who can save his son's spirit. Will Josh be able to astral project his spirit and find his son before it is too late?

So, they're haunted by a racist Pokemon?

The first half of Insidious is really strong with some legitimate scares. The concept of a person being haunted rather than a house is different and adds a unique perspective to the haunted genre. The reveal that Dalton himself is haunted should have been a bigger reveal, but it was actually in the description for the movie. What ever happened to a little mystery? Regardless, it's still an interesting concept that is helped along by some good jolts. The scares come more from music swells and quick flashes of the demons more than any lasting psychological scares. The movie does have a slight creepiness to it with some of the more decrepit looking spirits standing behind the characters, but it never goes full out.

The acting is pretty good, with Rose Byrne putting in a good performance as the terrified and frantic mother. Lin Shaye is also great as the knowledgeable Elise. The movie inexplicably shifts from her perspective about halfway through and the movie shifts into a separate story focusing more on Josh. The final act where Josh goes into the astral world and fights off the spirits completely changes the feel of the movie and makes it come off as a much cheaper movie. The mystery and fear is gone and is replaced by a weird sub story that I was unable to follow. They try to go for a more generic action finale and it just doesn't work. It doesn't help that the ending is cliched and eye roll-worthy. James Wan (Dead Silence, Death Sentence) does a better job directing in Insidious than Dead Silence. There are some good camera shots and a nice atmosphere throughout. One real minor complaint with the movie is that they named the little boy in a coma after Patrick Swayze's greatest character ever, Dalton from Road House. Pain don't hurt indeed.

Do you like my formal gas mask?

Insidious (great word) is more than your average haunted house movie with a creative twist and some good scares. The first half of the movie is really good, but the movie loses steam halfway through and ends with a bit of a thud. You know a horror movie is good if it sticks with you long after the credits role. That doesn't happen with Insidious. The scares stopped which left the movie flailing and focusing more on action than traditional horror. The acting and directing are both good, it's just the story that doesn't hold up. If you like your haunted houses, you'll probably enjoy Insidious. If you like complete movies that keep the horror going from beginning to end, you may be a little disappointed.


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