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Review – Insidious

Click poster for official site.

Click poster for official site.

With Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Barbara Hershey. Directed by James Wan. Rated PG-13 for thematic material, violence, terror and frightening images, and brief strong language. 102 minutes.

For anyone who has grown sick of the “splatterporn” that has passed itself off as the modern horror movie, the idea that director James Wan (whose credits include the original “Saw”) was going “old school” with a haunted house story sounded promising. INSIDIOUS fails to live up to that promise in nearly every way. It is little more than a pale copy of “Poltergeist,” which is now sufficiently ancient that today’s teen and twenty-something horror buffs will probably not have seen it.

The movie takes forever to get underway. The Lambert family moves into a lovely old house with their three kids, but odd things start happening. Books fall off a shelf. Mom (Rose Byrne) can’t find a box that mysteriously reappears in the attic. Voices are heard over the baby monitor. Oh, and Dad (Patrick Wilson), a school teacher, finds excuses to stay late at the office, as if he can’t grade exams at home.

Then little Dalton (Ty Simpkins) falls off a ladder and bumps his head. The next morning he’s in a coma. Tests show no trauma or other cause for his state. Months go by. It’s only a few moments of screen time, but you may start to feel that months are going by and nothing is happening. When Mom starts to see strange people around the house, it’s time for the family to move.

Unfortunately, the hauntings continue at the new house and that’s when Grandma Lorraine (an utterly wasted Barbara Hershey) suggests that they need to bring in her friend Elise (Lin Shaye). If you’ve seen “Poltergeist” you know what’s coming. The strange lady is going to reveal the mystery and explain what needs to be done. This is done through a process that is simultaneously hilariously preposterous and not the least bit frightening. Indeed, the scariest thing in the movie may be the inexplicable use of Tiny Tim’s “Tiptoe Through The Tulips” on the soundtrack.

The last portion of the film is where all the really scary stuff is supposed to happen, as Dalton is tracked into some netherworld of evil spirits blandly called “the Further.” Here we get the sort of cheap thrills that are better done by cut-rate, seasonal scream-in-the-dark attractions. The best thing about the movie is Lin Shaye – better known for her comedy work with the Farrelly Brothers – who somehow manages to keep a straight face while delivering Leigh Whannell’s leaden dialogue. Whannell doesn’t spare himself, taking the role of one of her assistants.

“Insidious” is a crashing bore, and will likely only frighten people who have never seen any horror movies. Good luck with that. Viewers who haven’t seen “Poltergeist” or the more recent “Drag Me To Hell” should skip this one and check those films out to see how this sort of thing can be done right.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 1 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being Jar Jar Binks Must Die… And Other Observations About Science Fiction Movies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.


About Daniel M. Kimmel

Film critic, author, lecturer.

6 responses »

  1. veronica reyes

    you are crazy!!! This film was great!!! I always go see scary movies and just find myself soooooooooo disappointed waiting til the very end for something good to happen. This film wasted no time making me scream my head off. By far one of the scariest movies in a while.

    • Daniel M. Kimmel

      Ordinarily I would just leave this comment alone. I had my say, now you’ve had yours. But look around at the reviews and the audience reaction. It’s divided almost in half. Half agree with you and found this a genuinely frightening movie. Half agree with me that it is deeply flawed and often boring.

      I don’t how one movie can generate such contradictory reactions, but this one does and that’s worth noting.

    • If you screamed your head off, you obviously never sat through true horror film. ‘Insidious’ was unoriginal and boring. The whole time i kept thinking of ‘Poltergeist’ and ‘Star Wars’ because that demon looks JUST LIKE DARTH MAUL. Then again you probably never seen the two films. The CG movement was a joke, the music was a joke, the acting was a joke, the ghost (the same ghost from ‘The Haunted Mansion’) are a joke. The movie was bad. Period.

  2. Travis Van Wyck

    You’re joking about the Drag me to Hell part right? I mean that movie was just absolutely horrendous.

  3. Its interesting to read some of the reviews out there, they tend to be split 50/50 which I think is a good indicator for a decent movie because the best ones are not always understood by everyone.

    Sure Insidious has a lot of holes in it, at times it seems a bit play by numbers but it does do one thing very well, pay homage to the classic horror movies. Using atmosphere (something very lacking in modern movies) such as music and “the less you see the more you wonder” set ups it tries to use the viewers imagination to do the work (again something that older movies had to rely on).

    Your entire review is dismissive from the start which is a shame but I do understand where you are coming from its possibly to cerebral for you and your tastes are of a particular horror type.

    I hope you were referring to the old Poltergeist movie because the new one was an absolute travesty and should not have been made all it did was to tarnish the quality of the original movie and may well steer potential new fans (of the old movie) away.

    Drag me to Hell was average at best in my opinion but this is an example of contrast where I prefer more cerebral movies you possibly prefer more action and play-by-numbers movies.

    • Daniel M. Kimmel

      We apparently have very different takes, which is perfectly okay. I’ll simply note that I would never refer to this braindead movie as “cerebral.” My complaint is that no thought at all seems to have gone into it except rehashing tired old cliches which you prefer to read as “homage.” To me THIS was the “play by numbers” movie, whereas something like “Drag Me to Hell” was inventive and creative.

      But I’m criticizing the movie, not you. Clearly we should not be taking each other’s advice on horror films.


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