2011’s “Insidious” emerged as a fresh take on ghost tales. While possession and phantasms weren’t exactly new, “Insidious” offered a rejuvenated version, employing successful tactics. The film features a creepy atmosphere, engaging set up, and more than a few twists, all of which establish a tense, edge of your seat experience.
We open with the Lamberts who have just moved into a cozy house, your first sign of danger in a horror flick. The Lambert household, consisting of Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai (Rose Byrne), and children Foster (Andrew Astor), Dalton (Ty Simpkins), and Cali, seems like the perfect family. Soon after arriving, Dalton ventures into the attic where he’s frightened by something unseen, and falls into a coma the following day.
Flash forward three months, and Dalton is still in this mysterious coma. After bringing Dalton home from the hospital, Renai and Josh begin noticing strange, supernatural happenings. Believing the house is haunted, they move. When the phenomena continue, they are forced to consult a paranormal investigator, Elise (Lin Shaye), joined by her assistants Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (Leigh Whannell). It turns out that Dalton isn’t really in a coma; he’s apparently gifted with astral projection, like his father, Josh. Dalton wandered into “The Further,” a domain populated by anguished dead souls. Josh is sent into The Further to retrieve his son’s spirit and guide him back to his physical body, which means encounters with malevolent entities.
“Insidious” shines with inventiveness, relying on tension for the first half of the film and displaying vivid stylization. There’s a decent bit of clever dialogue, the paranormal activity isn’t a hodgepodge of cheap scares. Though largely similar occurrences, such as creaking floorboards, sinister voices, and frightening spirits, there’s a slow simmer rather than cumbersome tricks. Additionally, the family dynamic, and genetic astral projection abilities ground the narrative in reality. The parents show genuine concern for all of their children, and Foster struggles with Dalton’s possession.
Creativity is the strongest aspect of the movie, with bizarre demons and an intricate realm known as The Further. The various spirits include a whistling ghost (Lary Crews), a Lipstick-Faced demon (Joseph Bishara) that bears a remarkable resemblance to Darth Maul, and the Old Woman (Philip Friedman). Their residence, The Further, is a carefully planned out funhouse gone wrong. There are looming dolls, a highly-detailed workshop, and everything’s cast in a drab blue hue. What’s intriguing, and adds to the suspense, is that the various demons aren’t given backstories. We don’t know what happened to them or why they’re trapped in The Further, adding to their mystique. While the haunting imagery and simmering pace build up to a momentous finale, possibly the greatest aspect of “Insidious” is its ability to genuinely surprise the audience. Some gags may be a bit predictable, but there are plenty of truly shocking tricks and treats, ensuring an eerie journey into the further realms of the horror genre.