Sunday, April 17, 2011


Even if you haven't seen Insidious yet, chances are you've at least seen the first half of the movie, which regurgitates over a dozen of the most famous and obvious cliches of haunted house and possession movies. From the child with the unexplainable disease, to the child that no one believes. From the hysterical and illogical mother to the logical and overly-skeptical father. The rocking horse rocking by itself, the seance, the kid's creepy drawings, the geeks with the EMF meters, the baby monitors, the creepy old lady (Zelda Rubinstein anyone?), and many more.

The first half of the movie is so overloaded with cliches that the viewer cannot really associate with the characters in a meaningful way; they seem too fake, too archetypal. Any potential ideas or message behind the film gets lost in the storm of cliches.

The film starts to come around somewhat when Lin Shaye begins to describe "The Further" (which is an admittedly corny name to call it). The ideas of out-of-body experiences aren't completely unused in film, but are used rarely enough and in a unique enough way in the film that a hint of originality begins to emerge. And once we enter The Further, the vast darkness lit only by Patrick Wilson's lantern is executed splendidly, creating actual tension and suspense for the first time in the film.

Unfortunately the work done inside The Further is spoiled by the demon inside it, which bares a far-too-striking resemblance to Darth Maul from The Phantom Menace. Although not a cliche, it's still distracting when a character's costume looks too much like another popular character's (like how Nicolas Cage's costume in Kick-Ass looks a bit too close to several designs of Batman), and takes away from how otherwise creepy the demon would have been.

At several points during the film the concept of fear, and how we allow ourselves to deal with the emotion, is put forth. It's said that Dalton wanders too far into The Further because he has no real fear of what lurks there to keep him grounded in reality. This idea is touched upon other places in the film also, but it doesn't really become a clear and solid theme behind the film. What it ends up being is some vague advertisement for watching horror movies and allowing yourself to feel fear.

The ending is interesting as well. It's an ending that, again, we've all seen before, where the supposedly defeated spirit manages to still possess the hero's human body, but it's done well enough to still be exciting. However, the film cuts off too soon by ending on a scream without showing the result of the scream. This ending feels cheap; it doesn't allow the film to come full circle and complete its narrative, and instead ends on yet another poorly-timed jump scare.

Ultimately the movie feels phoned-in to me. Given what James Wan and Leigh Whannell were able to accomplish with Saw, and the performances Patrick Wilson mustered in Hard Candy and Watchmen, this film falls far short in comparison to the talent these three men possess. These three could've done much better than a Poltergeist without the fun and exciting jumps, than a The Ring without the suspense, intrigue and beautiful art-direction, than a Paranormal Activity without a paralyzing ending.

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