Insidious (2010)

I’ve always wondered, when men in movies go to investigate a noise in their darkened houses, why do they always tell their wives to stay in the bedroom? Whatever it is, wouldn’t you be better off going down there with backup? If it gets through you, she’s next on the menu anyway so I say muster all your firepower and flank that fucker. Don’t make it easy on the intruder/ghost by offering yourselves up one at a time. Plus it’s a scientific fact that men are 87% braver with a woman cowering behind them, admiring their muscles.

I was excited to watch Insidious because the wife was away, the apartment was dark, and I’ve been getting way too much sleep lately. I’d heard it was good but I didn’t know much about the plot. I remember the poster had “INSIDIOUS” written in all white letters, except for the two red letters in the middle spelling out the word “SI”. Clever idiot that I am, I figured that was a subtle clue about the kid being possessed by a Spanish-speaking demon or something. El CHUPACABRA TIENE SU HIJO! DIOS MIO!

The story: GAH! Patrick Wilson, noooooo! I have no idea why I despise this man so much. He’s a perfectly serviceable actor and I’m sure he’s a fine human being. Something about him just irks the crap outta me. Maybe it’s because I know he’s a musical theatre actor (the Broadway musical version of The Full Monty can suck my full monty, by the way) but his movements always seem a little too rehearsed, his inflections too perfectly modulated. It’s like someone trained him with treats and a riding crop until he was able to sit, roll over and cry on command. Anyway, he’s the dad in this movie.

Pippin Valjean Superstar plays a high school teacher who recently moved into a nice, big house with his wife and three kids. From the outset something’s not right: books are always falling off the shelves, doors swing open for no reason, and when mom follows a noise to the attic, she sees a furnace spark to life on its own. For some reason that doesn’t faze her. Seriously, what the fuck is a functioning woodstove doing in your attic? And why is it on? Fire hazard much? And these two aren’t done earning their parent-of-the-year awards yet.

Wait, do we have two kids, or three?

Later one of the kids, Dalton, goes into the attic, which makes him the bravest and most implausible child ever. He tries to turn a light on – I’m guessing Andrew Lloyd Father is budget-minded because the entire house is never lit by more than one lamp at a time – and falls down. We’re then treated to a deeply unsettling crackling noise as something terrible approaches the helpless little boy. He screams and only then do the responsible grown-ups notice that junior is nowhere to be found. They come to the rescue well after whatever it was has already had its way with their son, and are relieved to find their negligence resulted in only a few scrapes and bruises. Until the following morning, when Dalton won’t wake up.

He stays in a coma for months and the family starts to unravel. The supernatural occurrences heat up and things take a turn for the seriously scary. Let this be a lesson, any five-bedroom house that can be had on a teacher’s salary is definitely haunted.

Oh, child services? Sure, we'll be right down...

Biggest letdown: I’m particularly susceptible to jump scares, and this movie has a lot of them. If you enjoy being startled, this is the movie for you. But in truth, it gets to be over-saturated with tense, drawn out moments ending in “BOO!” After the first few scenes there are maybe two five-minute stretches in the entire movie that don’t have at least one heavy piano hit designed to make you hop out of your seat and pee a little. It gets to be numbing and eventually even a bit goofy. Also, the dialogue blows.

Why you should watch: InSIdious has all the standard haunted house trappings – dark attic, creepy kid, panicked mom, dad-in-denial, etc. It seems to be following a well-traveled path but then, delightfully, the end of the first act delivers a neat departure from one of the most notorious complaints about ghost stories. Unfortunately I can’t tell you what it is, lest I ruin a good chunk of the movie’s appeal. I can say that it’s just that kind of choice that make this slightly better than your average screamer.

Memorable Moment: It’s kind of impossible to have a haunted house and avoid calling in some flavor of Ghost Hunters eventually. In this case it’s a sunny old lady and her two Amish-looking assistants, both of whom are fairly funny. The obligatory séance scene, a make-or-break moment for any ghost story, is actually pretty smart. Maybe it’s been done before but this was the first time I’ve seen a medium isolate herself in a giant steampunk gas mask hooked up to her helper’s headphones. Through this contraption, he’s able relay her narration to everyone else in the room. This keeps the medium at the heart of the action yet above the proceedings, unsullied by anything that might tend toward the ridiculous. The audience is allowed to imagine her voice and expressions as being as credible as the eerie music and lighting effects can bear.

This doesn't really do anything, I just can't listen to any more Sondheim.

Choice quote: “He’s not in a coma. They don’t know what to call it. They don’t know what to do with him, so they’ve just given up. It’s like the universe is trying to see how far I’ll bend before I break.” I told you the dialogue blew.

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5 Responses to “Insidious (2010)”

  1. On the one hand, I kind of wish I had seen some of the movies you’ve been reviewing so I could feel like an insider. On the other hand, with some of these films, better you than me.

    • So far this year the only one I’d actually recommend is Ravenous. If you haven’t seen it, definitely worth a look. The rest…meh.

  2. […] The alarm goes off and Ben goes to investigate. Kudos to Viv for making herself useful instead of hiding in the bedroom. Ben never finds Taint, but he does find Addy playing in the basement. He doesn’t stick around […]

  3. […] Insidious – Patrick Wilson. Horrifying. […]

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