Directed by James Wan. Starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Barbara Hershey, Andrew Astor. (2011, PG-13, 102 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., April 1, 2011
Insidious is the haunted-house genre's equivalent of one of those old carnival spook-house rides. Initially promising, it soon becomes apparent that the only thrills to be found are of the rickety, spring-loaded, papier-mâché variety, heavily daubed with garish fright lighting and bargain-basement "gotcha" moments – which is odd because both Wan and co-writer/star Whannell have recently gone on the record in a spate of promotional interviews for Insidious lamenting the lack of proper atmospherics and the surfeit of fake scares currently subsuming their (and my own) beloved horror genre. Taking a cue from recent haunting/possession films such as Paranormal Activity and the superior The Last Exorcism, Insidious follows the Lamberts, a suburban American Everyfamily as it first comes to grips with and then battles a malevolent force that has lured young son Dalton (Simpkins) into a supernatural coma. Insidious is littered with elements of genre classics (Poltergeist, The Exorcist, The Evil Dead) and nonclassics (Ovidio G. Assonitis' Beyond the Door) alike, but by the horrifically unshocking end of the film you feel as though you've just watched a lamest-hits reel of lesser genre fare. (There's a distinct air of rote, late-period Lucio Fulci-ness about the whole thing.) Granted, Shaye's gas-mask-wearing psychic is a hoot, but she's no Zelda Rubinstein, and even Hershey as the grandmother with a dark past and key knowledge of the current peril, underplays to the point of apnea. The only remotely entertaining aspects of Insidious come from Whannell and Sampson as a comic pair of hypercompetitive hipster ghost hunters, and even that schtick is repeated ad nauseam. Don't even get me started on the sublime asininity of the cloven-hoofed, fire-faced demon thingee that, for no reason I can fathom, resembles, almost exactly, Darth Maul. Seriously. Don't.