Insidious | Film review
Saw hack James Wan takes a few more slices from old movies.
At the world premiere of Insidious in Toronto last September, Saw director Wan introduced his movie as “this generation’s Poltergeist.” Premature, maybe, considering no audience on Earth had seen it, but that sort of enthusiasm is endearing, even in Ed Wood types. It’s a lineage Wan does proud: The film is a forehead-slapping barrage of reflex-testing shock cuts, poorly motivated camera setups, loud noises and rather too many things that go boo. Melding Poltergeist and The Exorcist to the digital-era home-haunting of Paranormal Activity (the latter’s director, Oren Peli, gets a producing credit), Wan has the source material down cold. But while his film can scarcely claim an original shot, its ambition to scare people simply through story and camerawork speaks to a refreshing ingenuousness: This is creaky, old-fashioned hack horror, for better and worse.
Perfect couple Byrne and Wilson awake to find one of their children (Simpkins) in what seems to be a coma, but the doctors can’t figure it out. At the same time, their home is invaded by assorted specters including a long-clawed demon and a stoop-ball-ready child. Cue the entrance of a pair of ghostbusters (one played by screenwriter Leigh Whannell) straining for comic relief and a goofily prosaic medium (Shaye). If you can smile at these sorts of details, Insidious becomes modestly charming, even scary—perhaps possessed by the ghosts of movies past.