If you’ve seen the trailer for Insidious, then you no doubt remember Lin Shaye deliver the line, “It’s not the house that’s haunted, it’s your son”. It still gives me chills. And the first half of Insidious successfully had my pulse racing with well-executed jolting frights, and a dour sense of dread.
Dalton Lambert (Ty Simpkins) is the son, of couple Josh and Renai (played convincingly by Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne), who along with their two other children move into a big old house, and soon experience strange occurrences. The adventurous Dalton falls from a ladder in the attic and slips into a coma, and strange becomes downright spooky. Renai, with the help of mother-in-law, Lorraine (Barbara Hershey), convinces Josh to move again to escape the nasty encounters. They move house and so do their troubles.
Shorty after, the film introduces a ghostbusting team, led by professional medium Elise Reiner (Shaye) and her two nerdy assistants, and things fall flat and apart. And that's a pity because Shaye is in her element and the character of Elise has great potential. But Leigh Whannel (also the film's writer) and fellow Aussie Angus Sampson ruin the spooky tone with intentional light relief as Elise’s assistants.
Renai and Josh struggle to cope with the knowledge that their son’s physical form has potential squatters from another realm called ‘the further’, and I have to admit I struggled as well. Not with the premise – I loved that – but because rules are established and then broken. A little more research into the unexpected concept used, in conjunction with the poltergeist theme, might have helped the script to gel and possibly have elevated Insidious to classic status.
Whannel and director James Wan collaborate once more after the surprisingly successful Saw (2004), the first in that franchise of so-called torture porn films, and the underrated Dead Silence (2007). Oren Peli, director of Paranormal Activity, and John R. Leonetti, one of this film’s cinematographers, co-produced Insidious and the film is technically sound, impressing on a reported budget of just US $1.5M (grossing $50.5M in return thus far in the States).
I left the cinema satisfied that Insidious had delivered on the scares that were promised. I also remain hopeful that one day we’ll get to see Lin Shaye reprise the role of Elise, in either a prequel or sequel, or better yet-her own spin off feature.