Today: April 12, 2024

Insidious

Hands down the most spine-chilling film of the year Insidious will have you checking behind the sofa after watching.

Hands down the most spine-chilling film of the year
Insidious will have you checking behind the sofa after watching.

It is perhaps
appropriate that in the same year Insidious is released we will also be graced with
the presence of The Woman In Black.
The obvious connection being that both these films are very much ghost stories,
but more than that they are both very theatrical in their nature. The Woman In
Black, although based on a book, has had a very successful and long running
stage production in the West End. Insidious meanwhile is a film you can easily
see being performed on the stage and losing little of its bumps, jumps and
scares along the way.

The film starts
with Renai (Byrne) unpacking from a
recent move to a new house. When her eldest son Dalton (Simpkins) slips into an unexplainable comma she becomes convinced
the house they live in is haunted. With alarms going off in the middle of the
night and strange bloody hand prints appearing on Dalton’s sheets even cynical
husband Josh (Wilson) begins to
think that something is afoot. Before long the manifestations are getting worse,
but the family soon realise it is not the house that is haunted but in fact
Dalton himself.

The highlight of
Insidious is its simplicity. There is no ‘found footage’ gimmick a la
Paranormal Activity, no clever CGI to create the scares just genuine tension,
the likes of which rarely make it out of Japanese Horror. Admittedly it borrows
heavily from countless other horror films. The malevolent force of The Exorcist,
the face in the background of The Others and the quirky paranormal expert from
Poltergeist are all present and correct. What it does with these ingredients
though is scare in a very effective way.

Director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell, who together created
the Saw franchise, have clearly identified what puts terror in the audiences’
mind. Much of what you see in Insidious is done through glimpses, a shadow here
a crash zoom there, it never really lets you settle and as such keeps you
firmly quaking behind the cushion you have almost certainly reached for early
doors.

The final third
descends into something closely resembling a child’s nightmare, and for good
reason too, but all the while you are constantly chewing the nails that at any
moment you will find yourself a good few inches off your seat. The story is not
always consistent with what has gone before but, and this is where the
theatrical brilliance works, it is all about atmosphere. Mostly set in one room
of the house the film never feels the need to resort to anything more than the
fear of something evil lurking just round the next corner. Wan is aware of
this, shooting the whole thing in wide angled close-ups, distorting our view
just enough to convince you that every twist and turn could cause a bout of
hyperventilating.

Questionable
story and acting aside Insidious does exactly what you want from a good old-fashioned
ghost story. It pulls you in with mystery and keeps you firmly routed with
scares and suspense that are all too often ignored in favour of gore and cheap
shocks. Turn down the lights, bite back
the nails and enjoy having the chills well and truly put up your back.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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