Something I’ve heard, when describing ‘Insidious’, the new ooh-spooky horror film from the ‘Saw’ team of director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell (who also acts), is that it’s a horror movie for people who aren’t fans of the genre. What this means, exactly, is beyond me. But I know that it’s really, really stupid. ‘Insidious’ is a terrible movie. Both genre fanatics and casual viewers should be able to recognize that fairly quickly, despite all the distractingly jarring music that tries to convince you that the movie is actually, you know, scary.
‘Insidious’ is your typical haunted house movie – but with a twist, of course. (More on that in a minute.) A young couple played by Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne move into a house with their three children. Upon arriving, scary shit starts happening. Books are misplaced, doors creak open, and ghostly apparitions start menacing the living. Things get so bad that one of their sons slips into a “coma” that he’s unable to be revived from (or even be properly diagnosed). When the family has had enough of this spooky behavior (to quote a legendary Christopher Walken ‘SNL’ skit), they move houses… but the haunting continues.
I guess this is where the whole “reinvention of the haunted house genre” (which has been highly touted) comes into play. I’d be hesitant to give away the twist if it hadn’t already appeared on all the internet ads and posters and every other piece of promotional fluff associated with the movie. So, [SPOILER!] the twist is that the family’s young son (the one in the coma) is the one who’s haunted [END SPOILER!].
Pretty soon, a paranormal investigator and her two goonish assistants show up, and she drops a bombshell that doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. The young son had the ability to “astral project” his soul out of his physical body. It’s just that his soul never returned to his body, so he’s trapped in a land of scary boogeymen, and said boogeymen are vying for his body. I wanted to scream “I object!” in the middle of the screening. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of weirdo government programs knows that “astral projection” was something the army was up to during Vietnam, and has nothing to do with ghosts. It mostly has to do with a soldier putting himself into a deep trance so he can, feasibly, spy on weapons plants in Russia (or something). It’s based on quasi-spiritual hokum, but it doesn’t have a damn thing to do with ghosts.
While I was on the fence for most of the movie, at this point I checked out entirely. It’s one thing to expect me to be scared by slamming doors and spooky cues on the soundtrack, but it’s another altogether to make me buy into this claptrap. When the filmmakers finally reveal the netherworld (hilariously dubbed “The Further” – what is this, a paperback fantasy novel?), it’s comprised of the same shitty sets and locations, just with the fog machine cranked up to 11. You think I’m kidding? Wait until you see it. I kept thinking about how these dudes must have millions saved up from their involvement with the ‘Saw‘ franchise. Can’t they afford better sets?
The answer is no. But this is keeping with the movie’s general cruddiness, at least. I hated ‘Insidious’, and this is coming from someone who thinks that ‘Drag Me to Hell‘ is one of the best American movies of the past few years. If you like loud noises and clichéd ghosts, feel free to have your pants scared off by ‘Insidious’. I’ll be in the back of the theater, napping.