Its marketing materials gloriously proclaim that Insidious comes “from the makers of Paranormal Activity and Saw,” which is certainly true. Director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell introduced us to the soap-operatic torture porn of the Saw world, while producer Oren Peli gave birth to the Paranormal phenomenon, so the combination of talents and visions promises to be, well, quite insidious, right? The short answer is hell yes.
This story about a couple (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) running from haunted house to haunted house with their three young children trying to escape whatever they believe is following them leaves a lasting chill, without torturing us too much with excessive gore or multiple camera angles replaying the same scenes.
There’s not much of a gimmick at all, other than imperiling one of the children — blank-faced Dalton (Ty Simpkins), who looks just innocent and sinister enough to fall prey to the evil that is actually haunting him — and not the houses.
Insidious also blends horror convention (stupid white people doing and saying stupid things) with humor (Whannell has a bit part as a member of the spirit-busting team that takes on the case, and he and Angus Sampson proceed to Laurel and Hardy their way through the final third of the movie to great effect). What prevents this from catapulting to more hallowed status is the simple fact that the film reveals its slim shadies too soon because there’s the chance that once the more experienced moviegoer has caught a glimpse or two, the freaks might not be so freaking insidious after all. Grade: B