For a while, I was very disappointed with the horror genre. I have always loved the horror genre, ranging from classic horror like Vincent Price and Alfred Hitchcock flicks to horror classics like Poltergeist, The Exorcist, and The Omen. Around the time that the 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street horribly disappointed me (side note, check out my write up from yesterday for a good Nightmare on Elm Street film), I was ready to give up on the genre entirely. Then, around April of 2011, we saw the release of a new and exciting piece of horror from James Wan and Leigh Whannell (best known for the Saw franchise). This film, Insidious, promised to breathe new life into a slowly dying film genre.
Insidious involves possession, haunting, and even astral projection – the latter of these very rarely explored in any genre. It’s full of cheap scares, as anyone should very well expect from a horror film, but they don’t make the movie any less enjoyable – in fact, they enhance the scary factor.
With the guys from the Saw franchise behind this film, you might walk in expecting a lot of gore and a more slasher-type horror film. On the contrary, Insidious does not rely on shock-value gore, instead going for a more classical haunting and psychological scare approach. The twist at the end was also pretty good – although when I sat down and watched this movie again recently, I have to admit that it was really kind of predictable. However, when I originally watched this film, I was so into it that I didn’t even have time to think about what would happen with the plot or what the ending would be like; I was completely entranced, sitting on the edge of my seat with my heart pounding in my chest as I waited anxiously to see what would happen next.
One of the things that really makes this movie work is the musical score. Not since The Shining had I heard music in a horror film that was so edgy and nerve-wracking until seeing this film for the first time. There’s something about the music that really enhances the mood, more so than one might expect. Music is, of course, an important part of most films, but instead of just queuing up the scary sounding music when the teenage girlis walking down a dark alley to her death, there is a constant stream of subtly disturbing music throughout the film that keeps your subconsciously and consciously on the edge of your seat.
The makeup for the demon/monster at the center of the film is kind of hokey, but when you are only getting glances of him as he appears randomly behind people to scare the crap out of you and make you jump, he’s a pretty imposing figure. There are some pretty creepy spirits that are encountered as well, including a sort-of vampire guy, a child with spooky laughter, and a family of ghosts with incredibly creepy and unnerving smiles, to name a few.
You don’t really think about acting when you think about horror movies, but I felt like the acting in Insidious was truly superb. There is one scene where a psychic, Elise, stares at the empty ceiling above the comatose boy’s bed, whispering in wide-eyed horror as her assistant (Specs, played by Leigh Whannell himself) frantically sketches the demon as Elise describes it. The amazing thing about this is that you don’t actually see the demon, the camera just switches between Elise’s face and the empty ceiling – but Elise is so frantic, so herself filled with terror, that her reaction alone – along with the urgency of the musical score – have you sitting on the edge of your seat, waiting for something to jump out at you.
I’m rarely all that phased by horror movies, as I have spent so much of my life watching them, but I was truly impressed by Insidious. There were times that I actually wanted to cover my eyes because I was afraid to see what would happen next – and that is the mark of a true horror masterpiece. I’m looking forward to watching the next installment in the franchise this upcoming January.