Having had their big break in Hollywood with 2004’s low budget gore fest Saw, James Wan and Leigh Whannell looked to be the next big shots of the horror genre. While the Saw sequels were helmed by other directors and slaughtered their competition at the box office over the past few years, Wan and Whannell’s own future films did not do so well and went straight to DVD in Australia. Like Wan and Whannell’s breakthrough film, Paranormal Activity was a low budget film not expected to make much money, but became one of the highest grossing films of 2009, and has had one sequel and another one on the way. It seems natural that these two teams of horror underdogs-turned-good got together and made Insidious, a dark, terrifying haunted house story that fortunately dodges that overdone story’s clichés and will undoubtedly be popular upon its release.
Renai (Rose Byrne) and Josh (Patrick Wilson) are a married couple with three kids and have just moved into a double story house. While their careers appear to be each others’ top priorities over their responsibilities to the family at first, this all changes once their oldest son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) suddenly goes into a mysterious coma. Creepy things like objects moving by themselves and hearing voices make the family move, but soon learn that moving away does not mean your problems cannot follow you.
Obviously trying to help their fellow Aussies out in Hollywood by having them consist of half of the main cast, Wan and Whannell (being one of the said Aussies) make sure they more than hold their own with their American peers. The acting is superb, and unlike a lot of horror films where the characters are annoying and the “fear” they feel over what is happening to them is laughable, Byrne and Wilson really click as the grief stricken couple not knowing what is happening to them or why. The supporting cast are a treat too, with Lin Shaye’s wise old psychic helping the unfortunate couple, and Whannell and Angus Sampson are good for a few laughs as Shaye’s bumbling assistants.
Overall, Insidious resembles Paranormal Activity more than it does Saw (fans of the latter may be disappointed with Insidious’s lack of gore), but Wan’s amazing technical skills are ever present. Wan seems to have borrowed a bit from his 2007 film Dead Silence with how he handles a ghost story, but unlike that kinetic fun yet creepy romp, Incidious goes for the sense of pure dread Paranormal Activity had, but even more successfully. Much like going up a rollercoaster, the slow pace builds up the creepiness factor by 11, making the audience hold onto their seats long before the scary parts even happen, yet will still scare the living daylights out of them upon delivery. Insidious will actually have you guessing when and how something scary will happen, yet these moments will take you by surprise anyway.
Originally published at meapcareers.com.au on Monday 9 May 2011