Insidious came out at a time of market saturation of current but strangely nostalgic for the ’70s hey-day of horror’ films. In fact, there was enough of these films to create a list of 100 films similar to Insidious (probably a bit much if you ask me) so I think what made Insidious stand out from the crowd is the demented nature of it. It follows a well worn plot, family tormented by an evil spirit, although this time, the house isn’t haunted, the eldest boy in the family is. After visions of things round the house, people at the windows, lurking in the corner of rooms, the family decides to move, which is when they discover that they could move all they like, this evil demon aint going nowhere!

With a reasonably recognisable cast and Horror Golden Boy of the moment James Wan at the helm, Insidious should be a good quality piece of horror filmmaking. Well. The first half of it is anyway. And this is where Insidious comes undone. The first half ticks all the boxes, granted they are boxes which are looking a little worse for wear now; the clichés of horror cinema, the troubled relationship between mother and father, the strange goings-on in the house, all check. I think there may have been too much emphasis on the hospitalisation of Dalton, the young haunted boy, I didn’t really feel like we needed to see so much convalescence, especially given that it appears to take months and months to realise he isn’t just in a coma, to then later be told ‘quick, were running out of time to save him!’.

Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne as the terrified parents of demonically possessed Dalton

Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne as the terrified parents of demonically possessed Dalton

An impossibly high standard is set in the first hour of the film, the acting is good, the creepy and weird atmosphere is pitch perfect, the frights, jumps and scares all had their desired affect. James Wan’s ability to misguide the viewer in a false sense of security by not going for the obvious scares and postponing the jumps until least expected. And even when a scare is expected, it’s not quite what you thought it would be. Films like Signs and The Ring have taught audiences don’t always look at what is right in front of you, look in the background, that’s where it gets creepy, and James Wan is clearly very aware of this. He exploits viewer expectations so marvellously and so expertly that the past few years of horror films can be somewhat forgiven.

Always look in the background...

Always look in the background…

So the second half of the film is where Insidious falls flat on it’s big red rubbery face.


A dialogue saturated scene explains that Dalton’s father was also afflicted with the same demonic possession when he was younger. Right. Demons are hereditary now, like heart disease? After a fairly long explanation of spiritualist and demonographer acronyms and jargon, we’re treated to a feast of ridiculousness. Dalton’s father now must embrace his childhood fears to go into ‘the other world’ (which could be mistaken for a S&M Santa’s grotto) to rescue his son. The once scary red faced demon which haunted us all but an hour ago takes on a silly Freddie Krueger-esque persona. Insidious loses all its ‘fear-factor’ in the second half because of a complicated and unbelievable plot, a cartoonish ‘alternative reality’ sequence and finally the ending, which…


…effectively leaves the family in a right old mess, dad’s gone wrong again and he’s murdered that lovely lady who helped us. Which to me felt incredibly lazy. The problem is the lead up made ‘Insidious’ (I’m assuming that is what we are calling the red-skinned demon?)look like this horrific blood curdling nightmare, which I was convinced with in the first half. In reality he’s not all that bad. Ultimately he’s not real, he doesn’t really hurt anyone, all he does is make a nuisance of himself, not exactly the most horrendous creature ever imagined. The other under-developed ‘horror characters’ creepy face woman, creepy sinister man etc. provided most of the terror in the second half

Upon Insidious finishing, I found it really difficult to take it seriously. But it’s success has obviously struck a chord with audiences, a recently released sequel took the box office by storm. I’m not sure if it’s quirky approach to horror films is what has made it a success. I kind of see the appeal of ‘well that was a mind-f**k. I wonder what Insidious 2 is like?’, but I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to see it any time soon. It’s films like this which frustrate me greatly. They deliver promise and quality only to finish on a whimper.

5 thoughts on “Insidious

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