Insidious (2011)

I’ll come right out and say it:  I’m really surprised with INSIDIOUS.  I honestly wasn’t expecting too much from this one.  It was directed by James Wan (sure he gave us the original SAW, but he also gave us the nearly unwatchable DEAD SILENCE); it was written by Leigh Whannell, who wrote DEAD SILENCE; and most troubling of all is that INSIDIOUS has a PG-13 rating (yikes!!).  Add to this the fact that Hollywood doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to making effective and scary ghost/haunted house flicks and I was skeptical at best.  That’s why I was so surprised with INSIDIOUS.  This is a genuinely effective and scary “ghost story” (for the sake of labels I’m gonna call it this) that has more than a few chilling scenes and also has an interesting, rather unique plot.

As the film opens we join the Lambert family as they’re moving into their new home.  There’s the parents Renai (Rose Byrne) and Josh (Patrick Wilson) and their three children Dalton (Ty Simpkins), Foster (Andrew Astor), and their baby Cali (uncredited).  Almost immediately we realize that something’s wrong.  As Renai walks around investigating strange noises she thinks she’s going a little batty from all the odd things she’s seeing out of the corner of her eyes.  Husband Josh (Night Owl II from THE WATCHMEN and looks like the love child of Kevin Costner and Christian Slater) always has an explanation for some sound heard or shadow seen.  But then one morning they find they can’t wake up their son Dalton.  In the hospital they’re told Dalton is in a coma but there seems to be no cause for it.  There’s no brain damage or infection or any other organic causes.  The doctor assures them that they’ll either find the reason for the coma or Dalton will just come out of it as mysteriously as he slipped into it.

Renai (Rose Byrne) & Josh (Patrick Wilson) are in over their heads!!

So three months later we re-join the Lambert’s back in their home where they’ve set up a mini hospital room to make Dalton, who’s still in a coma, comfortable.  It’s at this point that the creepy happenings around the house start to get more intense.  If you’re like me the first thing you’ll think is, “All this fucking house needs is some goddamn WD-40 so the doors, windows, and floors would stop creaking.”  But this is also the time when the intensity of the strange things begin happening.  One of the creepier things that happens is when Cali is taking a nap and Renai hears very clear whispering from an adult male coming from the baby monitor.  She listens intently as the whispering gets more intense, ultimately ending with the voice yelling and Cali waking up crying.  When Renai runs up there she of course doesn’t find anything.

This bitch will get under your skin!!

Events keep getting more intense until Renai gets close to her breaking point.  She tells Josh she can’t take anymore and knows the house is haunted, and although skeptical Josh agrees to move.  Once in their new home the “hauntings” start up almost immediately.  This is when Josh’s mom Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) gets involved and tells them she’s been having strange and scary dreams about the house and Dalton.  They’ve had enough and they decide to call in an old friend of Lorraine’s, psychic ghost hunter Elise (the always great Lin Shaye).  Elise knows almost immediately that there’s something wrong upon entering the house but she has difficult news for Renai and Josh … it’s not the house that’s haunted it’s Dalton who’s haunted.  It’s a nice twist that for some reason is given away during the TV trailers.

Just look to the far left of this still … yeah; fucking creepy!!

I don’t wanna give away anymore of the explanation as to why Dalton is haunted.  Let’s just say the explanation is 50% cheesy, 25% eye-rolling, and 25% pulpy.  Basically the explanation is pretty gay but Wan creates such a creepy atmosphere that you kinda just roll with it in order to get onto the next scare.  And the good thing is there’s plenty of genuinely creepy moments that’ll have the hair standing up on your arms and have shivers running up and down your spine.  What I really liked is that Wan didn’t go for the easy jump scares where he just has shit jumping out at you every 10 seconds.  He goes more for making the viewer feel uneasy and creeped out.  Wan expertly frames some shots so as to direct your eyes, for example, on Renai (who might be in the upper right hand corner of the shot) and then have something run across the bottom of the shot.  This creates the feeling like you just saw something out of the corner of your eye … just like Renai.

“The man w/ fire on his face”.

The acting is solid all around and Wan gives us very little relief from the tension and heavy atmosphere he creates.  Before Elise comes to the house she sends her two assistants Specs (the film’s writer Leigh Whannel) and Tucker (Angus Sampson).  These characters help relieve the tension at just the right times and never take away from it.  They are your typical “bumbling sidekicks” and are pretty much exactly how I view all “ghost hunters”.  Good characters.  What’s also refreshing is that considering this film is filled with demons, ghosts, and other odd spectral visions the filmmakers don’t overuse the CGI f/x.  We get actual actors in some truly scary make-up and many of the ghosts will creep you the fuck out.

This film isn’t without it’s weak points.  The “big reveal” and solution as to how they’re gonna save Dalton is stretching one’s suspension of disbelief to the breaking point.  I think writer Whannel simply skimmed through wikipedia looking for something he could use as the cause of Dalton’s coma and as the plot point of the story (here’s a hint; he never makes it past the “A”’s).  It’s silly and ridiculous but luckily Wan takes advantage in the first half of the movie to really create a solid, creepy atmosphere and give us many “hairy raising” and “spine tingling” moments without resorting to cheap jump scares.  INSIDIOUS is one of those “style over substance” films (just like 2004’s THE GRUDGE; it had no story but a lot of very creepy set pieces) and you’ll totally see the ending coming at you a mile away.  If you’re looking for a solid story with no plot holes and a great explanation you’re gonna be disappointed.  But if you just want to have a fun night out and see a scary film with many creepy moments that’ll have you turning on all the lights in the house when you get home then you’ll definitely enjoy INSIDIOUS.  I did.



Innocent looking women right? … at first!!


My Summary:

Director:  James Wan

Plot:  3 out of 5 stars

Gore:  0 out of 10 skulls (there’s literally 1 drop of blood in this entire film)

Zombie Mayhem:  what the fuck do you think??

Reviewed by Scott Shoyer


Had to include a still of Specs (right) & Tucker (left) [Angus Sampson & Leigh Whannel


24 Responses to “Insidious (2011)”
  1. Nicee…I was wondered about this one. I’m watching it on Sunday…and DEAD SILENCE…I couldn’t even finish watching that one. LOL


    • DEAD SILENCE really sucked out loud!!! Honestly the writing on INSIDIOUS isn’t good. At all. But Wan really does a great job creating a creepy-ass atmosphere and delivers some genuine hair-raising scares!! I’ll be curious to hear what you think of it.


  2. Deggsy says:

    The “A’s”, huh? I know! Alopecia! It’s some demon pissed off at losing its hair!
    Sounds intriguing. There’s always a risk of making a PG-13/PG horror film, for obvious reasons, but if it’s done right, it can act as an effective and influential introduction to horror for the younger crowd, beyond getting a sneak peek at your older brother’s Italian zombie DVDs.
    I don’t suppose Barbara Hershey’s character suggested an invisible entity was responsible, did she? She would know…


    • You said it all Deggsy … “if it’s done right.” And Wan pretty much did it right as far as the direction goes. But the writing is pretty cheesy. It felt good to actually be creeped out while watching a film in the theater. And to think Wan created that atmosphere with only $1,000,000 and a PG-13 rating!!


  3. The only thing I can think of for revealing the twist about the boy being haunted is that they didn’t want everyone to think this was just another ghost movie. (In all honesty, it sounds like they ripped off the plot of the first Poltergeist movie, sans graveyard under the neighborhood. They’ve even got the paranormal investigators.) I’ve wanted to see this movie since I saw the previews. I’ll let you know what I think when I finally do.


    • There’s definitely a lot going on in INSIDIOUS that’ll remind you of POLTERGEIST. the main difference being that there’s no haunted house or disturbed graveyard.

      I’m curious to hear your thoughts on it.


  4. eazy says:

    looks interesting from the commercials to me at least probly glad you liked it thanks for your review been gone awhile. Anyluck going to the horrorhound convention and getting a glimpse at laid to rest 2 ?


    • I’m not going to HorrorHound but will be going to the Texas Frightmare Weekend (got me a press pass!!) and the entire cast & crew of LAID TO REST 2 will be there for a panel discussion and to show clips!! Don’t worry; I’ll have a FULL report on it!!


  5. rosalind rivera says:

    I am a 13 year old girl and i think this movie was great, but because of the ending will there be an insidious 2??? and if so, what exactly would happen in the second part. I do not have a history with scary movies so this is all new too me. But this movie was really really great, and i am not sure if i can fall asleep tonight!!! I really hope there will be an insidious part 2 to this movie just like all of the :scary movies: or :scream: movies.


    • disastrophy says:

      I sincerely hope there will be a sequel, even though it certainly seems more like a one off. I would love to see more scares and lunacy from the demon. That character had potential and his story was left open ended which I found to be either too much of a copout or substantial reason for a sequel. Insidious II: Pissed Off Demon Strikes Back!!


      • I’m with ya Disastrophy … I’d love to see the backstory on the demon and watch him/it terrorize some poor schmuck!! And I like your title. It’s better than mine:




    • I’m with ya Rosalind … INSIDIOUS was a great film. I thought the writing wasn’t all that great overall, but Wan’s direction was solid and he created a really solid film!! I can pretty much guarantee there’ll be an INSIDIOUS 2. The first one cost $1.5mil to make and so far (as of Monday May 16) it has grossed $51.6mil … that’s one helluva Hollywood success story!!

      I’m not sure where they’d go in part 2. Maybe follow around the possessed father? Maybe (hopefully) focus on the demon? Maybe do a whole new story? Wherever they go I guarantee they’re gonna make a 2nd film … the 1st one made way too money!!

      And welcome, Rosalind, to the horror genre. You have a LOT of great movies ahead of you!!


  6. Demian says:

    I have to say I was impressed with insidious. I usually avoid pg-13 horror movies but heard too many good things. The jump scared are perfectly placed and 2 of them got me. I liked the humor that was interjected with ghost hunter guys too! Insidious is basically a movie succeeding on execution of cinematography and direction. Story kinda takes a back seat.


    • Well said Demian!! The story/plot was definitely the weakest part of INSIDIOUS. But Wan did an absolutely great job with the tension and the suspense. I really enjoyed INSIDIOUS and fear they’re gonna ruin it by pumping out INSIDIOUS 2!!


  7. kamillie7 says:

    I really enjoyed this movie. At first I was unsure and I thought it would be another lame movie. I was impressed that it kept my attention and it had me jumping throughout the movie. I love the twist at the end and I can’t wait for the sequel. I’m so going to tell my friends about this film. It was so worth the time and money.


    • Hey Kamillie. I was surprised too with how much I enjoyed this one. But I must admit that I’m not really looking forward to a sequel. There’s no way they’re gonna reproduce lightening twice. The sequel will be another limp Hollywood sequel with no charm (I think). 🙂


  8. angie says:

    Whats the name of the lady who is haunting josh?


Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] horror release of the summer season (it was released on April 1, 2011).  INSIDIOUS (see my review here) kinda came outta left field for a lot of horror fans.  Sure it was directed by James Wan, but it […]


  2. […] For the most part, the films listed below are all horror films made in 2010 but didn’t see distribution until 2011.  Technically I can’t include them on my list of the best films of 2011, but I also didn’t want you to think I forgot about them!!  These are listed in no particular order. INSIDIOUS (2011; dir. James Wan; my review) […]


  3. […] (2010; my review here): “The Exorcist” meets “Paranormal Activity” in this horror tale that […]


  4. […] is pretty damn exciting.  I loved the original INSIDIOUS (my review).  It was creepy, had genuine scares, and was all around a well made film.  James Wan has proven […]


  5. […] of the first film, and I’m definitely one of those people.  I really enjoyed the first film (my review) and think James Wan has really found his niche with ghost stories!!  INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 […]


  6. […] plot crunch suggests plot elements of INSIDIOUS. Let’s check out the trailer and see what’s really going […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: