I hate to be the guy who does this but as I had to look it up before watching the movie, I feel justified in saying that if you look up “insidious” in the dictionary, you will learn that it means proceeding in a gradual, subtle way but with harmful effects. And so INSIDIOUS, director James Wan’s first hit since he exploded in blood-soaked glory onto the horror scene with SAW in 2004, is aptly named. Wan slowly draws you into his hyper-stylized haunted house and those harmful effects I mentioned, they begin to take hold.
The trouble with paranormal based horror films is that their build is usually intense and potentially brilliant but their reveal is ordinarily ridiculous. INSIDIOUS begins with great promise. The low lighting, bizarre imagery and frighteningly sharp score pull you into the nervous energy that permeates the walls of the house in question. A new family has just moved in and the lack of familiarity itself is a device to cause more anxiety in the characters. Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne play parents to young Dalton (Ty Simpkins), who has seemingly fallen into a coma after a mysterious experience in the attic. As it turns out though, it is Dalton, and not the house, that is haunted and unfortunately, the means with which Dalton’s rescue is orchestrated, which I will not spoil for you here, change the tone of the film so greatly that the subtlety required for it to live up to its name is all but lost completely.
That said, just because I wasn’t convinced does not mean that many believers out there will not be fully taken with INSIDIOUS. When it comes to the paranormal, you either believe or you don’t and it should be the filmmaker’s job to change the mind of even the most ardent of non-believer. While that didn’t happen for me here, I can say that the film gave me chills on more than one occasion. In fact, I had to distract myself when watching, which could mean that I’m not at all interested but in this case, it just meant that I was too scared to look.