Insidious (2010)

Horror films have always had to do more with less. Lower budgets demanded higher creativity which lead to innovative techniques in storytelling. Not all great concepts require large budgets and some of the best scares come from unexpected low-budget gems. Insidious is one of those gems.

Directed with purpose by James Wan and intelligently written by Leigh Whannell, the film is basically a haunted house movie. A family attempts to run from malevolent spirits who begin to appear after heir young son suddenly slips into a coma one evening. Simple enough. You know you’re going to get a large house, a family unraveling, and jump scares hiding around every corner. What Insidious does is take those common tropes and give them a fresh take. The film is very familiar but as you’re watching it, you never tune out because you think you’ve seen it before.

The characters are well-acted and easy to watch. There are no annoying, brooding teens or gratuitous nude shots (believe it or not, this film is PG-13!). I instantly detach from a horror film when it seems more interested in checking off all the horror movie cliche boxes and trying something new and original. Roger Corman can get away with it. Other guys can’t. It’s surprising how refreshing it is to watch a horror film that wants to take you on a different ride. It knows, as a fan, you’re trying to second guess it and it chooses to throw you for a loop.

This isn’t a film about a house that kills in grisly, gory fashion. The scares are genuinely, well, scary! The film has an unnerving quality to it. You something is going to happen but the filmmakers have made it hard to predict. When it happens, it’s a surprise and a delight. You sit on the edge of your seat because you never get too comfortable with where the story is going. That’s a refreshing change from the usual genre pic.

Insidious was shot for 1.5 million, (or so we’re told). I bring this up because it’s an accomplishment for a director like James Wan, who has commanded much larger budgets, to see that this film wasn’t about overused CGI or even overpriced actors. He recognized a classic haunted house concept and knew we the audience would fill in the fear if given the proper atmosphere.That wouldn’t require tons of money. It hardly ever does.

Wonderfully atmospheric and genuinely scary, this film is the perfect one for the family. That’s not a put down, although in recent years, it could sound like one. It’s an achievement because horror fanatics will eat it up just the same.

Production year: 2010
Country: USA
Runtime: 102 mins
Directors: James Wan
Cast: Andrew Astor, Angus Sampson, Barbara Hershey, Leigh Whannell, Lin Shaye, Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins