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July 12, 2011

DVD of the Week – Review of Insidious (2011)

by NIR SHALEV

Saw (2004) was directed by James Wan and written by Leigh Whannell. It became an instant success and a cult classic and was revolutionary in terms of micro-budgeting a feature length film (a horror film no doubt) and one that even featured a few Hollywood stars. The problem was that the story didn’t make any sense; its antagonist was, somehow supposed to be the protagonist; and it gave birth to the term “torture porn.” It sounds disgusting but believe me, the special effects, gore and violence are quite awful in terms of quality. Then came Paranormal Activity (2009), a film that replaced popular torture porn films with classical ghost stories and that utilized the “less is more” type of filmmaking. The end result wasn’t scary but funny, but at least it was fun.

Now comes Insidious, a Wan/Whannell re-teaming that is also produced by the people that brought us Paranormal Activity, except this time this movie is good. It stars Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne as married couple Josh and Renai Lambert who may have a ghost problem. After a few interestingly creepy scenes Renai convinces Josh that they need to move out and to another home and as a token of his love to her, Josh decides to move.

Once situated in the new home the ghost problem doesn’t go away but actually intensifies and one of their three children, Dalton falls into a coma. He isn’t showing any signs of comatose behavior and Renai has more ghostly activity in the house while Josh is at work. When Renai’s mother Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) brings professionals to the house the unlucky couple are told that the house isn’t haunted but their son Dalton is. And that part is in the film’s trailer so I didn’t ruin anything.

What transpires is a strange but effective way of introducing to the audience the notion of a parallel universe, or astral plane that is known as The Further, and which Dalton had been visiting in his sleep for a few years. But due to visiting one time too many, a demon had kidnapped Dalton and keeps him there and I will stop talking about the plot from now on; I just wanted to get your attention.

What Whannell and Wan manage to do here is deliver a competently shot and acted film that tries to scare the audience with atmosphere rather than “gotcha moments”; and for once in my life, I’ve witnessed a horror film that’s entirely shot using a tripod and dolly tracks (gasp!). Also, for trivia purposes, Insidious was shot, edited, and delivered for under a million dollars and that’s because someone in the creative process actually cared for what their final product would be. I can guarantee that the latest Nightmare on Elm Street remake cost at least ten times that amount and yet didn’t make its money back due to a gross lack of imagination, a nonexistent screenplay, and Freddy Krueger that wasn’t going for laughs.

Here is an intriguing film that combines Paranormal Activity with other inspired schlock but that manages to deliver a creepy, involving, and ultimately satisfying ghost/demonic possession flick. Watch it with surround sound and the lights turned off. I did, and the final 20 minutes of the film are remarkably creepy indeed.

The special features on DVD and Blu-ray are Horror 101: The Exclusive Seminar featurette; On Set with Insidious featurette; and Insidious Entities featurette.

Other new releases this week: The Lincoln Lawyer, Miral, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives


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