Sony // 2011 // 103 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // July 15th, 2011
Welcome to your worst nightmare.
Horror, the undying (pun intended) genre. Like the ocean, horror comes and goes in waves: monsters, zombies, slashers, demons, madmen and ghosts. The most durable of all of these is the haunted house theme where sprits and other malevolent troublemakers move around the furniture and cause general havoc to someone's decorating skills. Sony's Insidious, now available on Blu-ray and DVD, takes it one step further.
Josh (Patrick Wilson, Watchmen) and Renai Lambert (Rose Bryne, X-Men: First Class) seem to have the perfect life: great jobs, two boys, and a newborn daughter and a beautiful old house. Yet their ideal existence is shattered when their young son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) stumbles on a ladder in their attic which causes him to slip into a deep coma. As the family attempts to go back to a normal life, they find weird things happening in their home (including alarms blaring in the middle of the night and ghostly apparitions appearing at their windows). When they attempt to move to a new house to get rid of the evil infestation, it's quickly discovered that it may not be the house that is haunted but their fragile and sickly son!
What scares you? I think everyone has something that freaks them out to no end. I have a good friend who finds The Ring to be the scariest thing they've ever seen. My mom's spine tingles when she sees Anthony Hopkins in the movie Magic. As for me, I think the scariest time I've had at the movies was watching John Carpenter's The Thing for the first time. That movie absolutely scared the snot outta me. When it comes to the undying horror movie you have to pick your poison: one man's zombie is a other man's Frankenstein's monster.
Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to Insidious.
Well, color me impressed. For someone who doesn't have a lot of interest in the overly played out haunted house genre, I really got a kick out of Insidious. Here's a movie that takes a theme that's been beat to death for decades and breathes new life into it. From the very first moments to the final frame, Insidious feels fresh and terrifying and -- GASP of GASPS -- it's not another rehash or remake! That alone stands as some kind of cinematic miracle.
I've been trying to put my finger on where Insidious went right when so many other horror movies go wrong. As I finished Insidious I was thinking about previous haunted house movies and why I've never warmed to them. House on Haunted Hill, The Haunting and many others have just never given me the shivers. It may be I'm that rare breed of viewer who actually needs to see something scary; if they're going to go to all the effort of slamming doors and shuttering windows, show us the goods! In Jan De Bont's 1999 film The Haunting I remember the fireplace being mildly menacing. When the scariest thing you remember is the living room's heat source, you know something hasn't gone right.
Insidious makes the bold decision to let us see what is haunting the house, and then some. And the things we see are truly eerie and disturbing. True, Insidious has its fair share of jump scares, mostly in the form of musical cues to make you crap your pants. Yet I cannot fault the film for this; lambasting a horror movie for having cheap scares with music is like knocking a comedy for having someone get hit in the crotch with a rake. It just comes with the territory. The real question is: does the movie use these moments to full effect and make them feel fresh? The answer for Insidious is a resounding "yes." You know you've got a good fright flick on your hands when the movie's opening title card freaks you out.
The performances here are all on the mark, even if they're secondary to the atmosphere and activity in the house. Patrick Wilson and Rose Bryne dutifully play the frustrated and frightened parents who don't know what to do to help their comatose child. As the leads they are attractive and do what is required of the script (yell, cry, freak out, etc.). Yet the real star here is Lin Shaye as the medium who puts the Lamberts on the path to discovering the true nature of what's going on in their house. Shaye has mostly been seen in mostly comedies (ala There's Something About Mary and Kingpin) and with Insidious she proves she has a serious side that is effective and moving.
Writer Leigh Whannell and co-writer/director James Wan (the people you can thank for starting the whole Saw movie franchise) pull hardly any punches with this movie. Although it's rated PG-13 -- usually a good sign a horror movie is going to wimp out at every chance it gets -- Wan and Whannell make the best of their rating and minute budget with a tight script, good effects and an excellent musical score. I was impressed with how they took a worn out genre and made it feel new and fresh again.
As you may have noticed, I've tried to skirt around talking about Insidious in specifics because I think the movie works best not knowing a lot about what happens outside of the bare bones plotline. Too often the viewer knows exactly what to expect when they walk into a movie (thanks to overzealous trailers), and with Insidious it's better to know as little as possible when you take your seat. With that in mind, I'd say this is a wonderful movie to rent with your date -- I can guarantee the two of you will be closer by night's end.
You can thank me later.
Insidious is presented in 2.40:1 widescreen in a 1080p resolution. This high definition transfer is excellent in all respects -- the colors, what there are of them, are represented well. The image is clean and pristine without any heavy defects, dirt or imperfections. There is a bit of edge enhancement during a few scenes, but it's hardly noticeable and won't take away from your enjoyment of the film. Overall this is a great transfer to a great movie.
The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 to great effect. Insidious is a good example of a movie that makes fantastic use of sound effects and creepy music. Both the rear and front speakers get a heavy workout, especially during the very tense end sequence. Fans of the film won't be disappointed with what this mix sounds like. Also included are English, Spanish and French subtitles.
There are a few decent, albeit short, supplemental features included on this disc. The best is "Horror 101: The Exclusive Seminar" which is essentially various cast and crew members discussing their thoughts on horror and the movie. "On Set with Insidious" is a typical EPK promo piece on the making of the film. Finally there is short featurette on the creatures in the film (the main demon played by the film's musical composer!) titled "Insidious Entities" as well as some previews of other Sony movies and some BD-Live content.
Insidious is an insidiously good time at the movies. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this film and think it's one of the best horror movies of the year. Grab a date, a bowl of popcorn and settle in to be scared silly.
This movie is free to haunt your dreams!
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13