One of the first things you’ll notice about Insidious is the DRAMATIC VIOLINS that accompany the title, where the word INSIDIOUS is in POINTED CAPITALS that are somewhat ON FIRE. It’s a melodramatic beginning but makes you think yes, I am in for some down-home scares in this film, and people will scream. And both of these things are true. But what this film also has is Australian comedians and terrible makeup and a ghost dancing a jig. It is both a scary movie and a parody of a scary movie, but not like Scary Movie or even like Scream, but like if the movie’s makers—Australians-behind-Saw Leigh Whannell and James Wan—were writing a genuinely scary script, stopped halfway through to watch some Comedy Central, then forgot what the first half of the script was about. Which, you know, I’ve been guilty of before in my writing, but that’s why I haven’t made any movies yet. Because I hear movies are hard to produce when all you have in your pockets is $3.80 and five hair ties.
Musician Renai (Rose Byrne) and schoolteacher Josh (Patrick Wilson) are a young and attractive couple moving into a new house with their three young children to try out a different scene after some nameless stress plagued them beforehand. The house is lovely and big, but has an attic, which really, people in horror movies should think twice before acquiring. After an accident in said attic leaves their son Dalton in a coma that doctors can’t explain, things in the house start to move, creepy voices are heard on the baby’s walkie-talkie, and then, there are ghosts.
There are some seat-jumping moments, with faces appearing one moment and gone the next, an atmospheric house full of doors and creaks, and a sound engineer who knew how to make you tense. But after the introduction of Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson as Specs and Tucker, two paranormal investigators who work for wise medium Elise (Lin Shaye), then whole film turned into a quirky comedy, where Elise works using gas masks and ridiculous contraptions that look like they were bought at Toys r Us’ baby section, and Tucker and Specs constantly bickering in the background. They were genuinely funny and the idea of comic relief at that time was welcomed, but it never really regained serious momentum afterwards. I stopped giving a crap whether anyone lived or died because it stopped being serious and dangerous, and I failed to be scared in any scene from then on because of that.
The ghosts themselves were chilling when they were just glimpses here and there, but then it wasn’t long until they became real, corporeal things and also lost their scariness because of that. One scene that actually started out amazing, with someone walking past Renai’s window then suddenly appearing in her room in a scream-inducing way, ended with the stringy hair and pancake makeup of the monster/ghost/demon completely removing me from the movie despite the fact he actually physically attacked Renai and I should have been legitimately scared for her. When you got close-up looks at the demons they all had too much makeup on and not enough RAWR I ARE DEMON, and that, coupled with the rollercoaster tone of the movie made it impossible to regain chills. The one creature they bothered to add special effects to—creepy fingers and the ability to climb walls—looked exactly like Darth Maul, thereby looking like a cosplayer who stumbled into the auditions on his way to a sci-fi convention.
One good thing: while the husband (it’s always the woman who sees the monsters and weeps, isn’t it? Jesus) doesn’t believe wifey that there are monsters in their house, when she says she wants to move he does it to make her happy. While there’s a few avenues they didn’t take (why doesn’t he suggest a therapist, too? I mean, we know the demons are real but he doesn’t at that point) it’s a relief that for once the non-scared partner just goes along with requests instead of insisting that the clearly upset partner suck it up. Still, his late nights at work are annoying. What a jerk.
In summary: Below Expectations. There are scares and you’ll scream and the guy sitting next to Chris jumped even at the end when I spent most of the movie rolling my eyes. Maybe you won’t be as cynical as me, but if you are, you’ll be let down by the bad guys being too physically present, too powdery of face (even in the part when it’s purposefully done, which was a confusing scene anyway) and not doing enough hiding behind curtains. Too much of a change from serious to ridiculous caused a rift in the character investment. Despite all this, it’s still better than Scream 4, so if you’re at the cinema and have to make the choice...go see Thor.