Given the presence of director James Wan, I am claiming this review of Insidious (2010) as part of my focus on Australian film. Wan and creative partner Leigh Whannell famously had to head abroad in order to get the necessary financing for their film Saw (2004). It has worked well for them too, with both of them carving out nice little careers in America.
I have been enjoying horror films more over the last year or two, after realising that whilst atmospheric and at their best highly tense to watch, they were not going to leave me all that scared, unable to sleep for days like I feared. Whilst it didn’t keep me up for days, Insidious is one of the scarier horror flicks I have seen. The first half is a near perfect Haunted House jaunt that is seriously tense and creepy. It sees a married couple, played by Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson, have their son fall into a coma. Soon after, numerous creepy happenings start taking place. One of the best aspects of this section of the film was that it felt like a pretty realistic presentation of how a couple would react to such an intense situation, as fractures begin to emerge in their relationship. The second half, whilst perhaps not purely as successful as the first, successfully takes the story into some interesting and delightfully creepy places. It also leads to a conclusion of the film that is satisfying, and I for one loved the setup for the sequel at the end.
Watching this film got me thinking how little respect or even attention Wan gets here in Australia. His films get decent releases, but there is not the same focus on him as ‘one of our own’ and how well he is doing in comparison to other actors and directors. Perhaps most of that is due to the fact that he is working in the horror genre which does not get the respect it deserves. Hopefully this will change eventually, because on the evidence of Insidious, Wan is one of our very best directors. The film looks incredible under Wan’s stewardship. Even in the scenes of relative normalcy, Wan is very good at using the camera to create tension in a really disconcerting way. He achieves this generally in a very simplistic, old school manner, by really thinking of the best place to place the camera in each scene. A level of thought that is seemingly not bothered with in so many films. I am not for a second suggesting Wan is the next Hitchcock (he isn’t), but the way he thought out his scenes and took the care to think about the spot that placing his camera would bring the most to each scene, reminded me a lot of the great Brit’s work.
The Aussie flavour to the film leaks over to the cast as well. Rose Byrne, as the female lead, gives the best performance in the film. She is able to give a real sense of her character and the troubles that have plagued her life. Whannell partners up with Angus Sampson to fill a comedic relief slot. I liked the performances of those too, but was not so fond of the characters. Tonally the comedic stylings were just a little too light and not integrated with everything else that was going on. All the performances in Insidious were at the very least decent. Patrick Wilson, whilst in the shadow of his onscreen wife Byrne, is quite good. Lin Shaye as the employer of Whannell and Sampson, does really well to balance her role as part old kook who cannot be trusted, and the only hope for those involved. I also really liked the use of sound in Insidious. One of the major gripes I have with sound in many contemporary horror films is the fact that it is used cheaply to trick people into scares. In Insidious the sound is used to build atmosphere, but more importantly to boost the effect of scares that are already happening on screen.
I’m shamefully behind on catching up with Wan’s films (this is the first I have seen). But Insidious impressed the hell out of me, so I will be getting on to the others. A clever update on the classic haunted house flick that is genuinely scary, I can definitely recommend this film to anyone with the slightest interest in the genre. Or just if you want to see the work of one of the better young directors working today.
Verdict: Pint of Kilkenny
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Wan has only gotten better with each film. He really knows how to scare the audience in new and exciting ways. I’m surprised this is the first film of Wan’s you’ve seen. You should probably fix that!
I know, disgraceful aye. What is your favourite/least favourite of his?
Favorite probably would be The Conjuring. Least fav I’d have to say Dead Silence. Most underrated would be Death Sentence.
Cheers man. Bummed I missed The Conjuring in cinemas. Hoping it hits DVD here soon so I can review it in the leadup to Halloween, but not sure that it will.
Loved this movie. Its story engrossed me and Tiny Tim’s “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” just added that extra creepy factor. Will you be seeing the second?
Absolutely, can’t wait to see it. I couldn’t find an Aussie release date though, which is strange seeing it is out this week in the States.
Terrific review, you’ve really got me wanting to check this out. James Wan I took a quick liking to with Saw, but Leigh Whannel (as an actor, at least) I’ve yet to latch onto. But you say he pulls it off quite well, even if the character isn’t particularly likable. That’s a step-up from him in Saw. He was both dislikable and the acting was infamously horrid. I encourage you to check out Saw next. It’s something else! 🙂
Haha, I didn’t realise that Whannell’s performance in Saw was meant to be so bad. He is fine in Insidious. He doesn’t stand out, but he doesn’t stand out for being terrible either. Everyone seems to love Saw, so I should take a look.
I still need to see this. Of Wan’s films I’ve seen Saw and Death Sentence. Loved Saw. Death Sentence was ok. Love vigilante films, but Death Sentence missed the emotional side in my opinion.
I had Insidious on blu-ray and it sort of sat on my shelf and got ruined last year when my house flooded during the hurricane. I can’t complain since it sat on my shelf so long.
One day I’ll pick it up again. I wanted to see it, but got lost in the shuffle
Given your house flooded in the hurricane, I think you have something to complain about. That sucks. But yep, I definitely recommend this one. One of the better modern horror films I have seen.
I can complain but not about Insidious since it was collecting dust. A some point I will pick it up again and this time watch it!!!
But I still have a lot I still need to replace first
One of the best movie-going experiences I had was seeing this movie in the theatre and having no idea what to expect. Incredible what Wan was able to do on a budget of $1.5 million.
Right on. Definitely does not look like it was made for that kind of money.
Insidious is easily one of the best horror films of the last several years. It really left a mark on me, and was genuinely creepy. I can’t wait to watch the sequel next weekend. James Wan is an absolute master of horror. The Conjuring was brilliant as well. Good post. I agree with you in every aspect.
Thanks for commenting. I am really keen to check out the sequel too, but no Aussie release date as yet. I was bummed that I missed The Conjuring in cinemas, but will definitely search it out when it hits DVD.
Glad you liked it mate. Wan should be a hero over there, the man is the best thing to happen to horror in a long time. I’ve just watched another Aussie directors effort, Andrew Traucki? The Jungle. Loved his previous work, but The Jungle wasnt great 😦
Hey man. Thanks for commenting and sorry for the sluggish reply. Where did you catch The Jungle? I have been tracking that film for a while now and have not been able to gather much about a potential release. I heard that Traucki has deviated from his formula a bit for that one. I’m with you though, I freaking love his first two films. Especially The Reef. That was incredible. Twas on my top 10 the year it came out. Really original too, the way that both that and Black Water edit in footage of real crocs/sharks and make it all flow and look FREAKY AS SHIT.
Maybe he should do the same thing in a new film, but with spiders.
I didn’t actually know Wan was Australian so I’ve learned something today! You should definitely watch the first Saw, it’s a horrible, brilliant little film. Great review!
Cheers for commenting man. Everyone always tells me to watch Saw and I really should get around to it. I sort of bought into that dismissal of the film as torture porn so never really bothered with it.