The genre of horror—the most maltreated and ridiculed in Hollywood, yet James Wan seems to have adapted the avatar of a horrific player in the haunted genre of horrors. Starting too similarly to The Conjuring (2013), Insidious is a complete flip turn from Saw (2004)—James Wan’s horror extravaganza that catapulted him into the scene. Attempting to create an eerie mood through understated horror techniques motivated by creating a scary feeling rather than scaring the audiences literally, James Wan brings forth a dramatic horror movie that dares to deviate from stereotypes, but finds itself resembling to his horror showing from this year, The Conjuring.
Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) and Renai Lambert (Rose Byrne), a happily married couple with three beautiful children, move to a new house to start a new episode of their life. It does not take long before Renai notices subtle activities and indescribable progressions affecting her children and herself in this mysterious house. One night, their son, Dalton (Ty Simpkins) is intrigued into visiting the attic and injures himself in the process. The viewers see him staring anonymously at some object. Downstairs, his parents hear his screech and run upstairs, where he seems to be fine—except for a bruise on his forehead. Successively, the next morning, he does not wake up and enters a coma—for no concrete reason, and there unfolds the mystery surrounding the house, or perhaps the incumbents of the house instead…
The opening scene itself, when Renai wakes up and checks old photographs of her family sets the tone of the movie. When Dalton asks her why there are not any pictures of his father during his youth, where she responds by informing that his father was too camera shy. The spiritual reasoning to this fact comes later on during the movie, but credit where credit is due, the screenwriter, Leigh Whannell—who has a small part to play himself, albeit a plodding one, uses some magnificent presaging and plot setup in these early stages to create the perfect cushion for the story to take off during the final act of the movie. When the blast that appears from the past later on works full circle, the scenes and the added knowledge thereof creates a stellar effect on the viewers, whilst fashioning a perfect twist towards the culmination of this haunted tale.
The basic plot and the scenes in the movie are not always creative and stimulating. The development of the story is trite at many points—following a standard character conflict cycle and a basic screenwriting structure. With that, Whannell and Wan deliver a modest story glorified by restrained clues during the various scenes—capping it off with a distinct theory, and a definite plan towards accomplishing the specific goal. The route towards the diagnosis is intriguing and a handy way of coming to a resolution, but despite such a unique take—the eventual diagnosis and the way forward doesn’t capture the mood as much as the initial mystery does. Leading to the final act, the eventual sequences are sheer drama, with a well-developed sense of urgency, and a dominant climax—one of the best in horror genres—that completely evacuates the loose ends and formulaic buildup earlier, whilst leaving the final, mammoth climax as a wheezing revelation, a bamboozling closure.
The major question for horror movies: is it scary? A subjective sentiment perhaps, although Insidious is not quite scary apart from the creepy ending sequences between Ghost Doctor Elise (Lin Shaye) and Josh, not to forget Renai. The aftermath serves as the prolific climax and kicks the movie from an ordinary showing to an intelligent demo of storytelling and “horrific filming.” Filmed with a limited budget, positively for Wan, Insidious is a gallant attempt, with a powerful climax punctuating the assorted chestnuts—a movie with sufficient mystic.