Monday, 9 May 2011

REVIEW: Insidious

Dir.: James Wan
With: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne.

A movie a day keeps the demons at bay.

I am sat up in the middle of the night, scared to fall asleep in case I get lost in my dreams and get snatched by the man with fire on his face. Nah, I am only kidding. “Insidious” really was not that scary. Although, I have to admit there were a few moments when I was torn between two very powerful urges: to either close my eyes or continue ogling Patrick Wilson. Oh and if you, like me, do not know the meaning of the word insidious, here is the definition: beguiling but harmful, working or spreading in a hidden and usually injurious way.

James Wan, the creator of the original “Saw” movie decided to go back to his roots and make a horror film which is more psychological and less gory. We follow the life of a normal American family who move into a new house – a red herring right there. Their son has an accident and falls into a coma. Predictably, strange things start to happen. The first third of the film is very slow paced, and it plays out more like a family drama, with the parents trying to deal with the family tragedy. The unusual disturbances seem rather harmless at first. The story then spirals out into an unpleasant, jumpy and eerie mess. The good thing about “Insidious” is that it attempts to treat its subject with a straight face, making it a little more believable. The budget of the production was miniscule, which must have limited the use of any kind of outlandish contraptions and naff special effects.

I am sure that some people would find this film extremely terrifying. It tries to cover a lot of ground too – it is a haunted house movie, a ghoul story and a psychological thriller, with multiple references to “The Shining”, “The Exorcist”, “Paranormal Activity” and “Poltergeist”. I personally don’t normally get scared of horror films, unless they deal with murderous children – so, “The Omen” and the Spanish “The Orphanage” scare the bejesus out of me. The only film that I watched recently which made me actually lose sleep was Cronenberg’s “The Fly” from the 80s – it was mainly Jeff Goldblum’s uncannily convincing portrayal of a man’s deterioration into an insect with all the physicalities that come with it that terrorised my mind for a while.

By the way, I hope that someone has written a thesis on Sigmund Freud’s influence on horror films. “Insidious” is absolutely full of Freudian references. There is the whole dream dimension where suppressed urges manifest themselves, the importance of childhood memories in forming a person’s life and the inexplicable human terror of the uncanny – i.e. the inanimate objects that seem alive and animate objects that appear dead. Whoever wrote the script for this movie (Leigh Wannell) knows his stuff.

On a separate note – why are two very good actors like Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne stuck in second-rate films? Ms Byrne, after portraying a sexy slave-lady in “Troy” did not blossom into a Hollywood star and instead moved onto stuff like the terrible Nic Cage's “Knowing”. Patrick Wilson, who dabbled in musicals - “The Phantom of the Opera”, superhero flicks like “The Watchmen” and indie movies such as “Hard Candy” (where he was absolutely brilliant as a paedophile to Ellen Page’s teen avenger) does not seem to get any decent, leading roles that would make use of his good looks. I personally think that he has the bone structure of a Greek statue, so maybe someone should cast him as Apollo in some giant epic blockbuster.

Sorry, I keep straying away from “Insidious”; probably, because it failed to scare me, but I am just thick-skinned. Go watch it if you want to get a few jumps, have a few nervous giggles and spill your Coke everywhere like I did. 

PS. Having said all this, a couple of hours after I've written the review, I went to the bathroom, thinking I was home alone. Needless to say, I screamed my head off when I saw a figure lurking in a dark corner of the living room. (The figure then apologised many times and was quite offended by my violent reaction).

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