Review: Insidious

Director(s)James Wan
Principal CastPatrick Wilson as Josh Lambert
Rose Byrne as Renai Lambert
Lin Shaye as Elise Rainier
Ty Simpkins as Dalton Lambert
Release Date2010
Running Time 110 minutes

Looking back on it, Insidious is probably one of the most important horror movies of the past decade. I don’t remember huge horror blockbusters being as commonplace before this movie, but after its success companies took notice and now the screens are filled with them. It’s crazy to think that despite the time that’s passed since then, few horror movies have been as commercially successful or ubiquitous among horror lovers and the general movie going public.

The story follows the Lambert family as they move into a new house. Unfortunately for them, soon after the move , their son Dalton enters a comatose state with no discernible cause. In their desperation, the family calls Elise, a psychic, to to determine if something supernatural is at foot. I can say after having seen Poltergeist, that I simultaneously enjoy both movies more, the former for how influential its template is to modern horror (and this movie in particular) and the latter in how it cleverly modifies the formula to keep it interesting. The Lambert’s family attempt to save Dalton has recognizable moments from the genre at large, but has enough twists to warrant a watch.

The movie spends a lot of time exploring “The Further”, an astral realm that contains the souls of the dead. It’s a purgatory with a dark and eerie atmosphere. The concept and its subsequent exploration gives the Insiduous franchise a cool metaphysical experience that’s unique and distinct. Traditional exorcism scenes are replaced with more definable struggles. The ambiguous nature of the realm adds a dimension of mystery and unease when characters explore it. My only complaint is that there’s not enough action in these moments. Some kind of spiritual “anime”-esque fight would’ve been cool to see but I can appreciate the attempt at being different.

Shot composition and effective use of sound keeps the scares in the movie feeling earned. Yes, there are jump scares. No, they do not suck. Wan understands that a good jump scare requires a meaningful visual scare that a character (the audience) would actually find scary on top of some kind of noise. He places them sporadically so tension actually has time to build. Music only plays when needed so it feels like it has a purpose. It’s not the most memorable in end of itself, but it’s effective in helping set the tone.

I only have a few problems with the movie. Like Saw , action scenes can feel jumbled and rushed. It’s a weird aesthetic choice that immediately took me out of the moment. Thankfully, this movie only has to deal with this issue a few times. There’s also a TON of exposition. To the movie’s credit a lot of it is introduced naturally and it never feels boring. I also originally had a love/hate relationship with the ending. I thought it was entertaining and unexpected but it also felt undeserved in some sense. My opinion on this has changed more because of Insidious 2 which serves as a good conclusion to a lot of the ideas in this movie. Personally, if you watch this you should watch the second- treat them as two parts of a larger episode and I think you may enjoy both of them more.

Report Card

TLDRInsidious is a creative take on the supernatural family horror genre and has a ton of scares to boot. If you can deal with a few exposition dumps and like more metaphysical aspects in horror, check this one out.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!


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