In actual fact, I should have saved that title for a review of Hitchcock's brilliant film, Notorious. But nay, this is a review of a film that has been doing well on end-of-the-year-best-of-horror-lists, Insidious. Every time I thought, I must watch that Insidious movie, Duran Duran's immortal Notorious would get lodged somewhere in my frontal lobe. Come, join me in my own personal hell:
Now that we've all finished watching British men try to dance, on to James Wan and Leigh Whannell's Insidious. This is the same director/writer team behind Saw with the magical pixie dust of one Oren Peli (director/producer of Paranormal Activity) sprinkled on top. Insidious is also known for being 2011's most successful film in terms of cost-to-gross ratio. Neat, huh?
As for plot it's pretty standard. It's like a less wholesome Poltergeist (i.e. Poltergeist if Tobe Hooper had, in fact, directed that movie) with a dash of Paranormal Activity thrown in for good measure. Weird things start happening to a family, one of their sons falls into a non-coma and the weird stuff escalates. Believing their home to be haunted, they move only to discover that it's not the house that is haunted, but THEM!!!
Pretty standard stuff, right?
Let's talk cast. Rose Byrne is awesomesauce. I think she's fantastic in everything she's in and I genuinely enjoy watching her. As Renai (It's fucking Renee, I loathed to my core seeing it spelled "Renai" throughout the film) she makes the most out of Whannell's sub-par dialogue ("I just want things to be different in this house. I had such a bad day. I'm scared nothing's gonna change." is equal parts exposition, lazy and poorly phrased) and creates a normal but interesting character. The problems begin when the movie shifts away from her story to everything else in the movie about half way through.
Halfway through the movie it becomes about the father and "The Further" (every time they said "The Further" all I could think of was "The Rural Juror"). The Father, Josh (Patrick Wilson) is, to paraphrase an old Friends joke, pretty but dumb. No wait, that's pretty dumb. He's such a bland, lackluster character that I really began drifting during the second half of the film. I like that the film took us to The Further and spent some time there. The problem is, I didn't find it all that interesting. It looked like a Cirque Du Soleil number that got scrapped.
Now, there are some great scares. I can only imagine they were way more effective on the big screen but they still made me jump on my relatively small screen. The score is one of the best I've heard in a long time. It's both a throwback nod to other scores and completely unexpected.
I think my disappointment lies with what it could have been. All the ingredients were there but nothing really stuck a landing. By the time the ending happened, I just didn't care. There is an interesting pattern to this movie. Scary things happen, then characters sit around and discuss what happened. Do I care what astral projection is? No. Stop telling me.
That's not to say Insidious is a bad movie, it's quite a bit better than a lot of horror films that have come out recently but, as you can see by the amount of ellipses in this review, my attention kept waning. There were enough ideas in this film to churn out four individual movies. I give them credit for trying to make a film that could land somewhere between The Haunting and Poltergeist while still appeasing the current trends but I would rather see what scares these filmmakers rather than a collage of what they think will scare the masses. (FYI - What scares the masses ain't astral projection)