We've already admitted that James Wan's Insidious scared the shit out of us. And to be sure, this is a triple-threat of a horror flick. But how many threats do you need?
While we're sticking to our guns about Insidious being worth its money in scare power, the strange thing about this movie is it isn't really one film. It's three films, all of which we liked. But we worry that the transitions between the very different styles of horror get in the way of the overall plot of the movie. Let us explain:
Film 1: Classic Haunted House Horror Insidious starts off as your run-of-the-mill haunted house tale. A nice family moves into a nice home, and things go wrong. The family's little boy falls into a coma and scares start building. After a solid 15-minute slow burn Insidious gets relentless with its jump scares, mind fucks and peripheral creep outs. True, jump scares are often considered the lowest of the horror tricks, but we would argue that the first third of Insidious really mastered the art of the WHAM BANG BOOM, holy hell, CRASH, effect.
And while we jumped out of our seats — quite a few times — the real meat of this terror is the corner-of-your eye creep outs. Wan really figured out how to frame a ghost so it's just off camera, for both the audience and the character. This results in ridiculous anxiety. One character washes a load of laundry while a ghost child stands in the corner. Just stands there, like it's being punished — barely noticeable in frame, or to the people in the shot. It's delightful torture, and easily our favorite part of the film.
Film 2: Ghostbusters But then things take a turn. The family flees their home as the spirit attacks get progressively worse. But it turns out it's not the house that's haunted, IT'S THE BOY! So what does the family do? They call the ghostbusters. No really. They call the ghostbusters. Soon, Specs, Tucker and Zelda Rubinstein show up at their door (actually, the little old lady psychic is called Elise Rainier, but you catch our drift).
The trio comes enters the scene with a spectacular collection of DIY ghost hunting tools and alter the mood of the film 100%. Insidious changes from haunted house to "steampunk ghostbusters." While we liked this crew, their ingenious little ghost tech, and a few of their moments (like the above clip) they completely change the tone of the film. Thankfully, with the help of Zelda, the tone slides back into horror with a new techie twist and a few slow burns:
In the end the film manages to bring back the horror with one seemingly wacky gas-mask seance that goes from quirky to terrifying at lightning speed. And just when you think you're back on track, Insidious changes it up again!
Film 3: A Modern Day Hammer Horror Film It's been a really long time since we've witnessed a film that relied so heavily on green smoke and mirrors, but Insidious goes for the schlocky old gags from horror films of yesterday, with gusto.
After the ghostbusters introduciton, we discover that both the Father (played by Patrick Wilson) and the Son are astral travelers. So when they go to sleep, their souls leave their body and travel into "The Further" (a land filled with unhappy spirits and smoke machines). But there's the twist: when an astral being leaves their body, it leaves it vulnerable for hungry spirits to try and inhabit. One astral night out, the family's son got lost in "The Further," and hasn't been back since. Hence the coma and the gaggle of ghosts haunting their home and trying to inhabit his body. So now the Dad has to go into "The Further" to bring back the soul of his son. Phew. That was just as complicated to explain as it was to swallow during the movie, believe us. Anyways, cue the smoke and mirrors!
At this point, Insidious goes full-on schlocky. And this is where we fear the film will lose most of its audience. It switches moods just as aggressively as it attacks the audience with scares. We've got to hand it to Wilson for dedicating to the ridiculous scene where he actually holds up a green lantern and walks through a cloud of green smoke once inside "The Further." That being said, the whole other-realm experience is so different from the rest of the world for a reason — because it is a whole separate spirit wold. Plus there's plenty of people who are just going to eat up this hokey return to the wacky cheap stylings of old-school horror. Some of you will eat this up, others will projectile vomit the green fog right out. We're excited and curious to see what will happen.
Even though Insidious has multiple personalities and weird mood swings, there's one common thread that tied the three films together. The scares are always good. There was some quality nail biting happening during this viewing, and not even a ridiculous fog sequence can take that away from Insidious. So go and see it. Get scared — but lower your expectations for the finale.