Renai and Josh Lambert (Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson), move into a new house with their three kids. For a while everything seems perfect, until one of their sons, Dalton (Ty Simpkins), has an accident whilst exploring the attic. As a result the child falls into a coma, and the couple, particularly Renai, find it increasingly difficult to to deal with the pressures of their new home, young family, and a son who is now in a virtual vegetative state, permanently confined to his bed.
Things however are about to take a turn for the worse. Renai begins to see and hear things, when she is alone in the house, and as the strange happenings increase she becomes convinced that the house is haunted. Eventually, though still not sure that the problems are supernatural, Josh agrees to move into a rented house, in the hope that a change of environment will help his wife. However, after only a few days in their new house the supernatural occurrences begin again, with even more unsettling manifestations. At the recommendation of Josh's mother Lorraine (Barbara Hershey), they call in a group of psychic investigators, who have some disturbing news. It's not their houses which are haunted, but their son Dalton, who is acting as a gateway for a particularly unpleasant demon to enter our world, which he intends to do at all costs.
I believe as a critic you should as far as possible do just that, criticise. No film is flawless, and there will always be something to find that lets it down (and believe me, with some modern films that isn't difficult to do). As a result, I looked desperately for a fault in Insidious. But to no avail. It is quite simply one of the most nerve shredding, edge of your seat, shockers I have seen for... well, ever!
There are so many sharp, original and hauntingly beautiful things about this film, that I'm at a loss as to where to begin. I also don't want to say too much, as to do so would be to spoil the sinister air which the film sets up so effectively. One thing I will highlight though is the clever method it uses to achieve the sense of menace that permeates the film. You never see the same 'ghost' twice (except at the end), which helps unnerve the viewer even more. You come to the point that you literally don't know what to expect next.
Having said this, I will admit to a couple of small niggles (well it is as I said my job, as a critic, to find some fault, somewhere). Firstly, from the outset, the character of Renai is irritating. She appears to be rather highly strung, a trait which makes it hard for you as the viewer, to have sympathy for her plight as the story progresses. You almost feel it would be a relief to be spirited away, if just to get a break from her. However I guess being left at home with a screaming baby and a new house, whilst trying to concentrate on your day job as a composer and song writer, would be enough to test the patience of a saint.
Then there is the fact that the film as a whole doesn't quite manage to sustain until the end, the promise of its first two thirds. The problem is that it falls into the trap that so many promising horror movies do, by showing too much. It is much more effective at the beginning, when all you see are fleeting shadows, or the suspicion of something just out of view. One of the most unsettling scenes involves a record player that starts to play an old period song, when Renai knows the house is empty. There's always a sinister air about empty, sunlit rooms, and old gramophone records, which even the most terrifying monster can't achieve, and the demon which Josh and Dalton eventually confront doesn't quite hack it, being reminiscent of the winged protagonist from Jeepers Creepers. The film also loses some of the wonderful tension it has built, when the characters cross to the other world. Poltergeist did a similar parallel dimension thing, but much more effectively because it didn't show as much, leaving it up to the viewer's imagination. Finally the twist at the end is a little limp, as I saw it coming a mile off. And believe me, if I can see a twist coming, then it must be weak.
If I'm honest though, I'm just fishing for failure. There is really nothing bad to say about this film. I loved every minute of it, and am green with envy that I can't enjoy it again for the first time.
Expected Rating 7