Thursday 23 November 2017

Movies: Insidious * * *

(16, general release)
house of horrors

Paul Whitington

Moving to a new house is rarely a good idea in movies: there's always either a psychotic neighbour, a murderously resentful previous owner or malevolent spirit waiting to spoil the party. In this energetic horror, it's the latter, though the ghost turns out to have nothing to do with the new house.

Insidious is the work of writing/directing team James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the geniuses who gave us the Saw franchise.

Mercifully, however, there are no torture chambers or eviscerations on display here, for Insidious is a straight ghost story that owes much to Japanese horror tradition and the work of Wes Craven.

Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne are Josh and Renai Lambert, a married couple who move with their two young sons to a spacious new home.

Renai is on the neurotic side, and seems to have had something of a breakdown in the recent past, so when she starts hearing strange noises and sensing a strange presence in the house, no one takes her all that seriously. But their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) isn't keen on the house either, and, after a strange experience in the attic, he falls and goes into a coma.

The doctors are baffled and can find nothing wrong with him, but, as the coma drags on for months, Renai begins to suspect that something supernatural is at work.

When she wakes at night she sees a strange figure hovering behind his bed. Thinking the house is haunted, she insists that they move, but when the spirit follows them Renai begins to realise that her son himself is haunted.

Working with an extremely modest budget of less than $2m, James Wan tells his slender story with considerable skill.

He lightens the tone by introducing some humour midway through, courtesy of a paranormal expert and her inept assistants.

Barbara Hershey adds to the general creepiness with a cameo as Josh's mother, and there are enough little jolts along the way to keep the audience interested.

Insidious only begins to flag when it's required to provide an explanation for all this nonsense, but all in all it's a pretty solid little shocker.

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