Insidious (2010)

The dictionary definition of the word ‘insidious’ reads: “spreading gradually or without being noticed, but causing serious harm.” Which makes it the perfect title for this old-school scare-‘em-up from the creators of the first (and best) Saw movie.

Rose Byrne (Damages) and Patrick Wilson (Little Children) play young married couple Renai and Josh, who’ve just moved into a new house with their three kids. But before anybody can whisper, “Could this place be too good to be true?” objects are moving about by themselves and eerie voices are coming over the baby monitor. Then the couple’s eldest, Dalton (Ty Simpkins) slips into a coma, and Renai starts seeing dead things…

So far so eerie. Frustratingly, though, director James Wan and writer/actor Leigh Whannell are only able to cleave to the promise of their title for so long. This is, after all, an American horror movie. So whereas Insidious begins with the kind of restrained, effective boo-scares you’d find in the very best Japanese skin-crawlers, it inevitably gives in to the cheesy demands of more mainstream horror fare.

Which is a shame, because the deftly-crafted chills of Insidious’ first half err on the (dark)side of genuinely unsettling, with Wan and Whannell rustling up some commendably hair-raising stingers – some so ingenious that it’d be a crime to blow the surprises here. These moments are frequently so effective that they make plot-sibling Poltergeist – to which Wan owes a thing or two – look like Carry On Haunting. Other points in the plus column include an insane, galvanising score, as well as a psychic Lin Shaye and her two comedy-relief assistants.

Insidious, however, blows its chances at becoming a genre stalwart with its overly-flashy second half, undoing the stellar scare work with a climax that attempts to creep up on you with all the subtlety of an elephant on rollerskates. 3/5

Via Out In The City