Wan and Whannel’s “Insidious” Scares, Not Frightens

One might think that the infamous haunted-house horror film plot is already a very obsolete way of scaring, or even entertaining, people. But what if – just what if – the haunted house is filled with the grudge of children’s souls, the clown-faced spirits of a murdered family, some astral projectors and a red-faced demon who strives to take the body of a kid in coma?

With these one might still have doubts, but with horror visionaries James Wan and Leigh Whannel, famous for their one-of-a-kind works in the first two “Saw” movies and the two “Paranormal Activity” movies, “Insidious” does not disappoint. With its new, creepy, not phony and unique tactics, the film proves to be one of the most solid films in its genre, and is one of the best horror films in a long time.

“Insidious” tells the story of Renai (Rose Byrne) and Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson), whose son, Dalton (Ty Simpkins), mysteriously falls into a coma a night after they moved into the house. Three months later, Rose encounters several ghostly events – that is, hearing voices in her baby monitor, seeing a bloody handprint on Dalton’s sheets, etc. – and convinces Josh to relocate.

But the hauntings does not stop. With no other option, the couple is forced to seek the help of Elise (Lin Shaye), an expert psychic who turns out to have helped Josh with Dalton’s same problems when he was younger. She then explains that Dalton is a hardcore astral projector – meaning he can separate his soul from his body for a long period of time – as he inherited it from his father. Being the family’s only hope, Josh then decides to recall his astral projecting skills to lead Dalton’s soul back to his body.

Trivia question: How many horror movies have tackled astral projection plus haunted houses in the last ten, or even twenty, years? Hundred bucks on the table, not one. The concept of “Insidious’” plot is a very interesting, very original one. Yet with its complexity, there is a danger of confusing and annoying the audience. But ultimately, despite the movie’s twists and turns, it all works, although the ending could still use a little bit of a touch-up.

"Strike a pose."

The film also stands out with the style it uses. Intentionally or not, it brings back that impressive 70s-horror-film feel. First, the audience’s fright would not come from phony antics, for example, from a cat jumping out of a garbage can in the tune of a loud, creepy piano. The movie does not use too much of those unneeded sound, and its quietness make it all seem more real, more believable and a lot spookier.

Also, “Insidious” does not frighten; it scares. The creepy scenes are not even fast-paced and sudden. They start slow, continues to be slow, then makes viewers exclaim “what the hell was that?” and finally ends in an “Oh my God” reaction from the audience, with their goosebumps heavy and their eyes wide open. The film, unlike others, would scare people for a long time, the most impressive kind of reaction a horror movie could provide.

With every unique thing it offers, “Insidious” is definitely one of the most impressive horror films in a long time. See it, unless you are too scared to do so.

Oh and by the way, insidious means treacherous, seductive or subtle. Thanks Merriam-Webster.

How about you guys? Were you shocked with “Insidious” or have you just slept in the theater? Tell me in the comments below.

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