Review: Insidious

Few things in life fill me with more dread and pants-crapping terror than things I cannot physically fight off. Sickness doesn't really scare me so much, I suppose, but I am definitely not a big fan of getting sick. The fact that so many new deadly diseases keep popping up doesn't really serve as comfort either. But what really bother me are ghosts. Everyone has that one supernatural thing that scare them and for me it's these incorporeal bastards. I do not like the idea that something can invade my space, and possibly hurt me or the people I care about, that I cannot punch directly in the face. I prefer to have a fighting chance, you know? Even Freddy gets physical from time to time, but that ghost from The Innkeepers? Fuck all of that.

Alright, maybe not all ghosts are scary.

So when this movie came out and I heard the hype, I knew it would probably make me turn my blue jeans brown (and possibly a bit yellow). My only solace going into these sorts of movies is that I have people who will volunteer to watch them with me, which helps because I sure don't want to soil myself alone. As usual, this will contain spoilers, but I don't foresee any complaints as this film isn't exactly new anymore and most everyone who wants to see it likely has. With further ado, let's grab our gasmasks and jump into this hot ghosty mess. The story starts out like most ghost movies, with a family moving into a new place. We have two fairly young parents and three kids (two sons and a baby daughter). There's a bit of character set-up as their son Dalton asks why there aren't any photos of his dad around from when he was a kid, so his mom tells him that it's because he was camera shy.

Yep, surely it had nothing to do with any creepy old ladies showing up in the photos.
Later on, Dalton is playing by himself and hears a creepy sound, not unlike a horrible thing trying to lure him into the attic. So, as he is a kid and prone to doing stupid things, he goes into the attic, falls off a ladder while trying to turn on the light, then stares into the darkness around him and screams because he just realized that going up there was probably a terrible idea. The parents save him from the attic void and state that the attic is a no-fly zone. So, of course, the next morning comes and...Dalton's now in a coma. Well, shit.

Yeah, it kinda did.
We then jump 3 months ahead where it seems Dalton is still in a coma and the mother hears a voice over her baby monitor that sounds like a person who decided to try and smoke until they sounded like Tom Waits (but were not successful in this attempt). The baby's room seems to be empty, but she hears from her other son that he doesn't like it when his comatose brother walks around at night. I don't know about you folks out there, but if I see someone in coma get up a move around at night, I'm probably going to immediately call attention to this in a very excitable manner that may present itself as me screaming "HOLY SHIT HE'S MOVING", but that's just me. Later that night the mother sees a creepy man in her daughter's room and all the alarms in the house go off. What is it with people who things like this happen to and the way they just decide to hang out for months or years before moving? Personally, if my kid said he heard a creepy voice in the attic we would be gone from there faster than a new Call of Duty game on release night. But, because they're those sorts of people, they stay the night in an obviously unsafe place and the next day it turns out someone went a smeared handblood all over Dalton's bed.

Better get some Clorox, because I see a lot bleaching in your future.
It turns out that bloody handprints are the final straw (because having a creepy shadow person looming over your baby is no biggie) and they decide to move. But, because bad luck follows stupid people in horror movies, it turns out that the new place isn't much better as the mother sees a little boy dancing to Tiny Tim's "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" while she's outside, turning what was always a rather silly song into an easy way to creep out people who this movie emotionally scarred. I wonder how Tiny Tim would feel about that?

Ehhhh, something tells me he might be alright with it.
The mother follows the creepy little dancing boy to her comatose son's room where said creepy child bursts out of the closet and runs away. Perhaps you people should move into a church? I mean, I'm not religious, but perhaps these ghosts are and they'd steer clear of the place then rather than constantly popping up to give the mother a heart attack. Anyway, later the mother-in-law stops by and tells them about a dream she had where a demon was in Dalton's room and said it wanted him. I'm assuming it meant for demonic possession and not for anything a bit....yeah, we're not going there. Then she notices a rather fucking horrible bone cracking sound and the demon pops up behind her son.

Oh, and also the kid gets a bit of demonic juju thrown his way, but luckily he's in a coma and doesn't seem to mind. Grandma decides to call up her friend, Lin Shaye, to bring in her paranormal team and try to clean this house of spooks. Specs, one of the investigators, sketches up the ol' Sith lord up there and they all decide to do a seance, because the nice psychic lady explains that Dalton is actually not in a coma but lost in the astral plain because he projected himself from his body while he slept. This is why so many ghosts are hanging around, as they wanna crawl into the kid's body. So they light some candles, join hands in a circle, and Lin Shaye puts on a gas mask that is connected to Specs' headphones so he can listen to her channel spirits.

I can't decide who is creepier right now, the ghosts or the heroes.
The seance starts off alright but then instead of getting to talk to the kid the demon decides to have nice conversation with them all. Actually, he's not very nice about it at all, threatening them and cursing up a storm before finally making Dalton's body get up and attack the group. The psychic lady gets the demon out of the body, but knows it's a stalling tactic at best. She calls the grandma back over and it's explained that the reason they know one another so well is due to the fact that the dad was being haunted by a creepy old hag ghost as a child who kept showing up in photos of him. This is because h also shares his son's ability to astrally project while sleeping and now it's time for him to go into the spirit world and rescue him. They put him into a trance and he awakens in the spirit world. He wanders over to their old house, trying to ignore any ghosties, and goes to the attic where he finds a red door. He finds his son on the other side chained to the floor. He frees his boy, they make a break for it as the demon pursues them. And let just say, the spooky demon is a lot less spooky when you see all of him.

He sorta looks like Freddy Kreuger as a clown, only less imposing.
The dad and the demon get into a scuffle, he confronts the creepy old lady ghost in a mirror, and they escape back into their bodies. Happy ending right? Except the psychic sense something wrong as she's about to leave and takes a photo of him, which reveals he's possessed by the old lady, and ends with him killing the psychic and his wife finding her dead before the credits roll, leaving us to wonder the fate of the family now that daddy is clearly not himself. It's almost like they intended for there to be a sequel or something.

A sequel with amazing sound design that doesn't rely as much on jump scares.
This movie is interesting, but in the end it's not that great. For the first half of the film it really builds up a lot tension and has some genuinely scary moments, but the second half ends up feeling more over the top and silly at times, which honestly drags down the entire film. What I can say though is that when it was scary, it was really scary. There is a reason many moments in this film truly stick with people, because they're just so unnerving that it is hard to forget them. The first time we see the demon behind the father is positively horrifying, but I must confess that a big part of that is the sound that comes just before the grandma sees the demon. That sound is easily the most creepy thing in this entire film and will probably stay with people a lot more than any of the ghosts or the demon itself.

Awww, come on! I'm totally spooky, man! Just let me finish my makeup first.
The cast do a pretty good job though, with the highlight of the film of course being Lin Shaye. Patrick Wilson did a pretty good job as the skeptic father who was forced to accept something he didn't want to be true, and Rose Byrne definitely played the role of the scared mother very well. Much like the sequel, the true star of this film is the sound design, but I feel the over-reliance on jump scares definitely made it weaker, especially towards the end. The sequel did a much better job of heightening the tension without relying on cheap scares, giving the entire film a palpable sense of foreboding. Overall I would say this isn't a bad movie at all, but it doesn't feel nearly as scary on future viewings and tends to feel more silly. While it's good for one watch, I wouldn't say it's something to really stand-up to repeat viewings. So, until I wake up to a cute Japanese ghost crawling under my covers, I'll be here trying to keep my pants clean as I confront cinematic specters. Later days, bleeders.

And remember not to stare directly at the clock girl ghosts, not matter how attractive they might initially seem.