MFR Rating: ★ ★
With a budget of just $800,000 and a 21-day shoot, Insidious is very much a post-Paranormal Activity production. It’s another low budget, spooky haunted house flick which promises to have audiences jumping out of their seats. I never found Paranormal Activity frightening, in fact I was a little bored and quite a lot motion sick by the shakey camera even to the extent that I couldn’t actually watch without my hands over my eyes, but not for the reason the makers might have intended. Insidious sees the producers of Paranormal Activity team up with the writer and director of the first and only half-decent Saw film. Fortunately, Insidious avoids the monotony and queasy camera motions of Paranormal Activity. Unfortunately, Insidious just feels a little unimaginative.
In an interview after the screening, director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell commented on how they didn’t want the ‘frights’ to feel big and in your face, but the cheap use of constant startling, shocking sounds to jump the audience out of their seats was so frequent that it’s difficult to see where they are coming from. It’s constant surprise and shock as you wait to see what’s behind the next corner and when it might jump out at you. Nothing feels particularly original but to their credit, both men admitted that was never their intention. The family dynamic at the beginning works nicely with Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne playing the parents of a warm, young family. But from the moment the ‘horror’ kick in it all becomes fairly inane with the mandatory ghost busting team making an entry followed by some pseudo gobbledygook.
Plenty of people were jumping and taking in breath so undoubtedly there will be plenty to get certain horror fanatics and the weak-hearted quite pumped up. It’s not terrible, but I always felt like it’s just going through the motions a bit. The film might make you jump intermittently for a second, but there’s little that’s going to stick with you. Nothing particularly memorable stands out and it already feels like a bit of a blur. All the creepiness just feels a bit clichéd at best and a bit silly at worst. When pressed on whether a sequel may be in order both men denied any plans but certainly wouldn’t rule it out. With Paranormal Activity already a multi-part franchise it may seem questionable as to whether there is room for another. With a $28m return already in the US from such a small investment, you get the impression Insidious might be here to stay.
Insidious opens in the UK on April 29 and out now in the US.
Review by David Rank