‘Insidious’ DVD Review

Director: James Wan

Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne

Plot: A family move into a new house only to be unnerved by the strange going-ons that plague their child.

The internet movie community have my thanks, because I would’ve walked straight past this one in the video library. It looks like about fifty other films currently sitting on the shelf.

Horror movies go in cycles. Everyone sits on their thumbs for a few years until someone breaks out something new (or co-ops it from another culture re: ‘The Ring’). Then everyone gets all over that new idea like flies on a rotten peach and regurgitates the same thing in a constant effort to out-do each other. To use a recent example, Wan and Whannell broke new ground with ‘Saw’ in 2004, introduce mainstream audiences to gorno. Sequels followed in quick succession, along with multiple copycats ie: ‘Hostel’.

These films are churned out in one after the other until audiences get bored and the entire sub-genre becomes that generations catch-cry for cheap, tacky nonsense. Occasionly you may get something that tweaks the formula a tad, such as the delightful ‘The Loved Ones’, but people grow tired under the piles of dismembered corpses.

It happens time and time again. It was slashers in the 80’s, post-modernism in the 90’s followed by Eastern style horror and then torture porn. There’s nothing bad about this system, expect the originals tend to wind up in the bargin bin with all the others until the special edition lands 20 years later to coincide with the remake.

Wan and Whannell, the pioneers of the modern trend of strapping people to chairs and doing horrible things to them, prove that they’re not one-trick ponies with ‘Insidious’. This straight-forward tale of haunting (I’ll ignore the twist in that description because it was in the frickin tagline on the DVD case) is as cliched as it comes. Every trick the film-makers pull out is tried, tested and in some cases retired. Made on what is clearly a low budget but with a talented cast on board, ‘Insidious’ proves that high tech effects and new ideas don’t always equal scary. You can pick every move this opponent makes while the opening titles blare at you, but it’s because of the quality film-making that they still frighten.

Wan and Whannell make use of razor sharp editing, strong performances, haunting imagery and manipulative lighting and suggestion to fill the dark corners of each room with menace. Horror movies seem all to ready flaunt their villian, often giving them a starring role, and few of them can match up to the dark shadows and dimly lit faces lurking on screen here. Whether a sudden “holy fuck what is that thing over his shoulder?!” (you know the bit I mean) or a “don’t go up there I don’t want to see what’s up there!” moment, the boys manage to wring every drop of sweat from your brow.

Not that it’s a perfect film.The ending is stretched out a bit longer than the scares can hold up, and at times the low budget effects show their edges. This film is perfect for those looking for a scare, not a shock, and especially for anyone who wants to make their own horror movie.