One selling point that is unlikely to ignite my interest is the line,“From the makers of SAW and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY.” I’m not what you would call a fan of either of those films. Be that as it may, I am now willing to let bygones be bygones and move forward. JAMES WAN you and I got off on the wrong foot but all is forgiven thanks to INSIDIOUS. Have you been reading my diary Mr. WAN because you have somehow delivered just the type of film I’ve been seriously yearning for lately, a straight-forward, old fashioned spook-a-thon that has faith in its audiences imagination. What a pleasure it is to be legitimately creeped-out for a change. The sound of a theater audience gasping in unison and then chuckling at themselves is music to my ears.
INSIDIOUS is wonderfully simple. What else do you need to know besides the fact that it centers on a family experiencing a haunting? The good news is that unlike many a supernatural film that has come down the pike as of late you get the sense that those behind the camera may actual believe what they are telling you and have a healthy respect for the otherworldly. There is darkness in this film and it feels like darkness should, expansive and limitless and deviously shrouding the unknown. The beauty part of INSIDIOUS for me is that it’s like listening to somebody tell a ghost story and then recognizing a moment where the storyteller has entered the zone where they are freaking themselves out as well, rare stuff indeed.
Made for relative pennies and parading effective performances rather than CGI, INSIDIOUS takes a giant step forward by looking toward the past. The excesses of WAN’S previous effort DEAD SILENCE are robustly buffered here and it’s as if the film could stand as a eureka moment marker for the director where he gleans the concept of “less is more.” Timing is everything and there are so many visual moments in INSIDIOUS that linger only long enough to mark the psyche and then scatter into oblivion and the effect leaves you straining your eyeballs in a futile attempt to capture and pinpoint the cause. In other words, it plays rather like a communal séance where you have a ring side seat to witness the supernatural. That’s what I (and apparently the audience I saw this with) call fun. To quote ANIMAL HOUSE, “Thank you sir, may I have another?”
Both PATRICK WILSON and ROSE BYRNE are convincing as befuddled parents who resist the gravity of their situation for as long as possible only to discover their worst fears are just the tip of the iceberg. THE ENTITY’s BARBARA HERSHEY shows up to throw some un-played cards on the table and reveal that she doesn’t mind starring in TWO of the better films I’ve seen in the last year. DEAD END’s LIN SHAYE leaves the most indelible mark as a Tangina-schooled psychic in a gas mask. Can I just let it be known that as far as scream queens go y’all can have your pip squeaks and dopey debutantes and I’ll take the inimitable SHAYE? She’s wonderful in this and much like the late great ZELDA RUBINSTEIN in POLTERGEIST, her character is presented as whimsical comedy relief of sorts only to, with a glance or change of tone, suggest a razor sharp depth that unsettles and takes you completely off guard. Really it’s a classic performance.
So yeah, I highly recommend INSIDIOUS; it does something wonderful by allowing the mysterious and uncanny free space to roam and rather than tie everything up in a pretty bow, it stokes the imagination. The way it drop kicks the grotesque smack dab into the everyday at regular intervals is sort of like bumping into that homeless alley rat from MULHOLLAND DRIVE on every block you stumble down. This is a movie that I think truly earns its title and I’m going to award it a zillion extra points for recognizing the voluptuous horror of TINY TIM. Go see it in the theater rather than wait for home viewing and do yourself a giant favor by allowing the darkness extra room to play.