Insidious revolves around a family who try to prevent their son from being taken over by demons whilst he is stuck in a realm known as ‘the further’.
Insidious is the fourth feature film from director James Wan, his previous two efforts Death Sentence and Dead Silence are far from great and barely plausible at best. Insidious shares a lot in common with Dead Silence both stylistically and thematically; they both centre around ghostly happenings for a start, whilst they both share a dull and gothic-esque colour scheme which could be construed as a homage to some of the older British horror films made in the 1970’s. The similarities don’t end there as they both have eccentric and bizarrely crafted characters that are sure to amuse some. Unfortunately too they both start off as great films but end chaotically, ruining the beauty of their opening promise. The best way to view Insidious would probably be as two separate films, splitting the film into two separate acts.
The first act is a carefully executed ghost film, resembling Hitchcock’s style of suspense. With some quite stunning and well thought-out camerawork, it manages to be both creepy and eerie, offering everything you could possibly want from a film of this sort. Unfortunately during the second act something goes wrong – it’s as if the film concentrates too much on being zany to realise that it is actually going to end up resembling a car crash if the chaos isn’t reigned in. The second half resembles the second act of Joe Dante’s The Hole in 3D . In Dante’s case the style works well but here, following the Hitchcock element, it doesn’t work in the slightest, instead making it look sloppy and the film makers incompetent.
Despite its flaws, there are some great aspects of Insidious that really should be applauded, one being the overall style and the film’s use of a dull and gritty colour gradient and the second being the acting. Patrick Wilson (Watchmen, Little Children) and Rose Byrne (Damages) are as terrific as always whilst Lin Shaye as the psychic gives the atmosphere an added eeriness even if, in the end, it is her entrance that signals the beginning of the end of said suspense. Then of course there’s her two employees, the Laurel and Hardy of parapsychologists, played by screenwriter Leigh Whannel and Angus Sampson who give the film a little comic relief that make the second act a little bit more bearable than it should be.
Suffice to say, the first half of Insidious is a thrill ride that is let down by its disappointing second half. If possible, it’s best to try and view both acts of Insidious as different films to try and lessen the disappointment of the whole piece.