Saw series co-creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell make a limp attempt to cash in on the success of Paranormal Activity by teaming with that film's mastermind, Oren Peli, for Insidious, a haunted house film so slick and empty-headed that it may as well come sporting a fauxhawk. A clear-cut case of style over substance, this wannabe spook-a-blast does earn points for having the demonically harassed family attempt to flee early on, yet it quickly beats a hasty retreat back into Twilight Zone territory (see “Little Girl Lost”) while bombarding the viewer with images that, though occasionally creepy, are entirely inconsequential.
A family moves into an old house and begins to suspect they are under siege from otherworldly forces when their young son inexplicably falls into a deep coma. As devoted parents Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai (Rose Byrne) struggle in vain to uncover the root cause of their son's mysterious condition, the stress of the situation gradually begins to take its toll on their once-strong relationship. Later, when darkness falls and specters appear to reach out for them from the shadows, the frightened parents learn they're dealing with powers beyond human comprehension. In desperation, Josh and Renai contact Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye), a gifted medium whose connection with Josh stretches back further than the concerned father realizes. But once Elise uncovers the true source of the family’s supernatural malaise, and reveals that they will have to venture to a terrifying alternate dimension known as “The Further” in order to rescue their son from a powerful demon, Josh and Renai discover that their nightmare is far from over.
Smart filmmakers use the horror genre as a means to probe our deepest-rooted fears or to explore the darkest aspects of human nature; Wan and Whannell seem primarily concerned with making ten-year-old boys wet their pants. Virtually everything in Insidious is so cliche, derivative, predictable, and ham-fisted that this is one case where the PG-13 rating seems like total overkill -- an insult to the intelligence of tweens. Whannell generously serves up every plot point on a silver platter of exposition so that viewers won’t give themselves a headache trying to make sense of a story that was already 20 years old when Steven Spielberg recycled it (masterfully, in that case) for Poltergeist nearly 30 years ago. The only backstory comes five minutes before the grand finale; characters conveniently vanish when they no longer serve the story; and at no point does the writer even attempt to explain the origins of some of the film’s most unsettling and prominently recurring imagery.
So desperately do Wan and Whannell strain to capture the manic energy of Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell that Insidious may as well be called “Drag Me to The Further.” Most of us would be lucky to have a friend good enough to drag us from Insidious before we subject ourselves to this regurgitated gruel.
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- Released: 2010
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Saw series co-creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell make a limp attempt to cash in on the success of Paranormal Activity by teaming with that film's mastermind, Oren Peli, for Insidious, a haunted house film so slick and empty-headed that it may as well co… (more)