31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2016, Night #2 – Insidious (2010)

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Tagline: It’s Not the House that’s Haunted

Director: James Wan

Writer(s): Leigh Whannell

Studio: FilmDistrict/Alliance Films

Budget: $1.5m

Box Office: $97m

Release Date: 1st April, 2011

IMDb Rating: 6.8/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 66%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes

Cast

Patrick Wilson – Josh Lambert

Rose Byrne – Renai Lambert

Ty Simpkins – Dalton Lambert

Lin Shaye – Elise Rainer

Leigh Whannell – Specs

Angus Sampson – Tucker

Trailer

Plot According to Google: Parents take drastic measures when it seems their new home is haunted and their comatose son is possessed by a malevolent entity.

Inertia’s Insight: Director James Wan has a knack for delivering scares, and his strengths lie in the shadows and dark corners of a creaking, malignant household. Before The Conjuring, there was Insidious, a haunted house story with a twist: the house isn’t actually haunted…

Immersing you immediately into the shadowy world of Insidious, the opening titles take you through the Lambert’s new house, the images drained of all colour as silhouettes creep and items move on their own, the camera floating dream-like towards something – someone – sinister…

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And then the titles hit you. The screeching, painfully loud tuneless violins jolt you in your seat and from the first couple of minutes, you’re unsettled. The first act of the film builds the tension beautifully, as we watch every corner of the frame for a sign of something sinister, listening with intent to the sound of a floorboard creaking that can’t be down to heating pipes. We see the horror unfold through the eyes of Renai, a desperate Mother haunted by her son’s undiagnosed condition as well as the noises and sightings that are beginning to appear before her. It’s not until they move house that they realise that perhaps it’s not the house that was haunted.

The film has a fresh breath of air when Elise and her comic relief duo Specs and Tucker arrive to investigate the paranormal phenomena. What strikes me most about the film is it’s ‘ghosts’, loosely termed because of their appearance and the way in which Wan and Whannell embed them into the story. By the time the seance has turned even the most die-hard skeptic into a true believer, the story evolves from the haunted house to the haunted child, as Elise reveals the story of Josh’s night-time travels that he has passed down to his son who is now a vulnerable victim to something trying to take possession of his body.

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This is where the film excels. A modern day Poltergeist, it subverts the haunted home genre tropes and immediately takes us into new territory: The Further is a purgatory unlike we’ve ever seen, with camp yet creepy and often terrifying characters roaming this fog-laden netherworld, in search of the living that have the ability to reach them in their sleep. Josh reaches into a world he had previously left behind with the help of Elise after a close encounter with a familiar old lady to find his son, trapped at the hands of a clawed red-faced demon keeping him captive and wanting his real-life body. This is the only setback for me in an otherwise tense and taut horror film: the design of the demon is just too camp and not at all scary. In fact, it’s the times with this demon that let the film down. I might have missed a point somewhere along the line but for me, the demon is a complete miss and is the only weak element in an otherwise unique horror film.

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Lin Shaye is a beacon of light in this film, her performance a highlight of this dark story. She excels as a medium not afraid to show that she is terrified, and her revelation at the end is a classic in horror subversion: they think they’re through it, on the other side of The Further, only to end the film with a scream that has the audience (or at least me) shouting, “Fuck off!”. It unashamedly begs for a sequel, and it gets one…

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Inertia’s Ideal Score (* out of 5): * * * *

Trivia

  • The film was initially going to be called ‘The Further’
  • Insidious was the first film theatrically released by FilmDistrict.
  • Thirty three violins were used for the (horrendous) theme music.
  • The film was shot in just three weeks.

Quotes

FOSTER: I’m scared, Mom.
RENAI: Scared of what?
FOSTER: Dalton. Can I change rooms?
RENAI: Why would you want to change rooms?
FOSTER: I don’t like when he walks round at night.

LORRAINE: The reason I knew to call Elise in this situation, the reason I know her so well, is because I called her myself once, years ago, to help you.
JOSH: What are you talking about, Mom?
ELISE: It’s no accident that your son is a gifted traveler. The ability was handed down to him.
LORRAINE: By his Father.

All images courtesy of Google


Tomorrow: Night #3 – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

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