Combustible Celluloid
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With: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Andrew Astor, Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Barbara Hershey, Corbett Tuck, Heather Tocquigny, Ruben Pla, John Henry Binder, Joseph Bishara, Philip Friedman, J. LaRose
Written by: Leigh Whannell
Directed by: James Wan
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material, violence, terror and frightening images, and brief strong language
Running Time: 102
Date: 09/14/2010

Insidious (2011)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

In the Name of the Further

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director James Wan and writer/actor Leigh Whannell team up for the third time after their hit Saw and its dull follow-up Dead Silence (Whannell appeared in, but did not write Wan's film Death Sentence). With Insidious, they have hit upon their best and most frightening film yet. Essentially, it's a retread of Poltergeist, about a haunted house that more or less "kidnaps" a child, but it has its own unique spin. It's an old tale told in a new way.

The Lambert family settles into their new house only to find that weird things are happening. Books and boxes move around, and there are weird noises coming from the attic. Before long, son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) falls into a mysterious coma, and mom Renai (Rose Byrne) begins seeing things. Dad Josh (Patrick Wilson) agrees to move them out of that haunted house, but the hauntings continue. When Josh's mother (Barbara Hershey) hires a medium to help, the medium (Lin Shaye) explains that it was never a house that was haunted; it was Dalton! Now someone must make a dangerous, terrifying trip into The Further to try and rescue him... if it's not too late.

Surprisingly, after the ultra-gory Saw movies, Wan and Whannell choose here to go the old-fashioned route and to rely on half-glimpsed images, darkness, shadows, and noises for their scares. There's very little jump-shock here, which is the stock-in-trade for most modern horror films, although a red-faced monster will no doubt be the draw for future sequels. The characters are flawed in a deliberate and interesting way, resulting in some good performances. Supporters Barbara Hershey and Lin Shaye especially get in some interesting moments. Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity) serves as a producer.

The Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment comes with lots of trailers, a behind-the-scenes featurette, on set footage, and a quick featurette about the movie's creatures. I'm surprised this top-notch movie didn't perform better. Maybe people will catch up to it now that it's on home video.

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