OK, I just want to say right off the top that Insidious had me on the edge of the ol’ wingback armchair the whole time.
There were scenes that simply scared the hell out of me! It was just like being a kid all over again, watching my first haunted house movie. Even though everything was ‘by the book’… even predictable at times… I still got scared. I knew it was coming. I even saw it coming a dozen times. And still it grabbed me by the throat.
From the folks who brought you Saw and Paranormal Activity, Insidious is your basic bare bones no-nonsense haunted house movie. It reminded me an awful lot of Poltergeist in that almost all of the supernatural activities revolve around one child and everyone tries to figure out what is wrong, bringing in the doctors first, then a priest, and then the paranormal research crew headed by an odd lady. In Poltergeist, it was the delightfully strange Tangina Barrons (played by Zelda Rubinstein). In Insidious, it’s the almost unsettlingly normal Elise Reiner (played by Lin Shaye).
OK, here’s the deal… a family moves into a new house. Mildly unusual things start to happen. Books that are put on shelves end up on the floor. Mom hears whispering over the baby monitor. Stuff like that. Middle child, a boy, falls off a ladder. Next morning, kid won’t wake up. Kid rushed to hospital. It’s not a coma. Physically, there’s nothing wrong with him other than the fact that he just won’t wake up. Three months later, nothing more can be done; the kid is sent home, still in a coma-like state. Even weirder stuff starts to happen. Home alarm goes off in the wee hours. Front door keeps opening. Older son says he’s creeped out when coma brother walks around the house in the middle of the night. Mom’s the one who experiences almost all the paranormal activity and can’t stand it anymore. They move to another house. Weird stuff continues and gets seriously weirder. I mean ‘Tiptoe Through the Tulips’ weirder.
Enter nerdy bickering duo of paranormal investigators dressed like Mormons… an advance unit, as it were… kind of a cross between the scientists in Poltergeist and the GhostFacers from the TV show Supernatural.  They call in their boss, Elise. She utters the movie’s tag line… the “They’re heeere” of Insidious… “It’s not the house that’s haunted. It’s your son.” Dad doesn’t believe them. Kicks them out, then brings them all back. Elise holds what is hands down one of the strangest séances I’ve ever seen, wearing what appears to be a full face gas mask with a large Snuffleupagus rebreather hose in front.
Things pretty much hit the fan after that. Mayhem ensues. A skin-crawlingly good time is had by me and all Tiny Tim fans.
A lot of things add to the wonderfully eerie mood of the movie.
First of all, the initial house is fantastic. The wood floors and wood-paneled walls make the place deliciously crepuscular , no matter how many lights are turned on! Heck, this place seems dark even in the daytime! The second house is OK… basically a somewhat brighter, more modern version of House One. But the fact that it’s more normal just makes everything more chilling. Secondly, there is the nice loving family – the parents and the three children – with all the normal homey family stuff found in any normal homey house. Putting dark supernatural frightening things in such familiar ‘safe’ settings is always a good recipe for scaring the crap out of people. One more thing… and I touched on this before when I wrote about Village of the Damned … there’s something about putting children into horror situations that just ups the ante. Whether they are victims of the horror, as in It, The Sixth Sense or The Shining, or whether they are the instruments of horror, as in The Omen, Children of the Corn or The Ring , that fact that kids are involved at all takes the whole experience up several notches.
Insidious doesn’t have a lot of high-tech high-budget special effects. It doesn’t need them. The story is what counts. The mood. The look. The feel. That’s what got me in this movie. Minimal lighting, shaky camera and creepy music all work together to evoke an old-fashioned almost nostalgic horror feel. Insidious doesn’t overpower you with gore. Again… it doesn’t have to. It brings back strong memories, not only of Poltergeist but also the 1973 classic, The Exorcist. Honest to goodness suspense and thrills with some genuine jump out of your seat moments. It’s like tasting one of grandma’s recipes from your childhood. As a grownup, you think, ‘this is how food used to taste… this is how it should taste… but somehow doesn’t anymore.’
I liked this movie. It was so much fun being scared again. Definitely worth a look.
Two ghostly disembodied thumbs up.
 My $50 word du jour. Crepuscular. adjective 1. Of, pertaining to or resembling twilight; dim; indistinct. (I love just saying it. Kri-puhs-kyuh-ler! )
 Samara Morgan ties for Number One slot in my personal Top Evil Movie Children list, along with Isaac Chroner from the 1984 film version of Stephen King’s Children of the Corn.