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By Dagney Palmer and Lili Samios
After the classic bloodbath Saw and sci-fi-horror Paranormal Activity, James Wan may have a more insidious agenda for his next film. Director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell have come together to produce an intriguing and unpredictable thrill ride in Insidious, bringing back classic ghost-story trickery reminiscent of horror flicks like Poltergeist while also taking in modern mind-twisting elements similar to the producer’s previous film, Paranormal Activity.
Insidious begins with happy couple Josh and Renai Lambert (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) moving into a new house with their three young children. Just as they get settled in, strange events start taking place and Renai starts to believe their house is haunted. While most of the family is spending time together, son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) is playing alone when he notices that the attic door is open and decides to investigate. While in the attic Dalton falls from a ladder, but seems okay. While he is recovering, a strange noise, similar to cracking bones, is heard but it is impossible to see what is making the noise. Dalton then goes to bed and seems perfectly fine.
The next morning he isn’t at breakfast; when his father goes up to get him, Dalton doesn’t wake up. His parents take him to the hospital and find out he is in a coma, but the doctors cannot figure out why, he seems to be perfectly healthy. Amongst all of this turmoil, paranormal events are still torturing poor Renai. At one point she is playing the piano with the baby monitor close by. She hears voices on it, but it isn’t the baby. At first it was just static. Then she heard a voice demand, “Give it to me! Now!” Renai immediatey runs up to the baby’s room, only to find nothing there.
Renai is sure that dark spirits are present and tries to convince her husband Josh to move again. Josh, however, thinks it’s all in Renai’s imagination and refuses to move, even when she shows him a disturbing bloody handprint that appeared mysteriously on Dalton’s sheets. Josh’s stubbornness continues until one night when, amongst other rapid-paced paranormal occurrences, Renai is attacked by a longhaired fiend (J. Larose). The family then agrees that something needs to be done, so they move houses for the second time, hoping to escape the haunted house and save their son.
When the ghostly experiences continue and Dalton remains comatose, Renai and Josh realize that it wasn’t their house that was haunted… it’s Dalton. Renai decides to seek the help of psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) in hope that she can expel the evil spirits from Dalton. Elise does in fact have a plan to help the despairing family, but it involves revealing a secret from Josh’s past that even he can’t remember. Elise tells the woeful family that Dalton has gotten lost in the “further,” so now insidious ghosts and demons want his body so they can be alive again. If Josh wants to save his son from the encroaching demons, he must face his own worst fears in the otherworldly realm of the Further.
The anticipatory jumps in the beginning of the movie produced quite a few screams, and the craziness at the climax kept you engrossed trying to keep up with the action. Insidious has a slightly disappointing ending, but was intensely creepy and had a distinct, if not super complex, plot that leaves room for a sequel.
As far as scary movies go, Insidious had all the classic compelling elements: a suspenseful beginning, dramatic scares, incredibly annoying but still bone-chilling background music (consisting mainly of spastic violins), and, of course, demons. Insidious has the same modern mood as the producer’s previous film franchise, Paranormal Activity 1 and 2 (PA3 will be in theaters October 21, 2011) and takes a new spin on classic horror.
We give this movie four and a half out of five stars. Insidious has all the makings of a classic horror movie. It is a little cheesy, but can make you jump out of your seat. There are almost no fake scares in this movie. You should only see Insidious if you like scary movies; the story is interesting but not completely worth it if you don’t like getting scared half to death. The main antagonist of the film, a demon whose appearance is reminiscent of Darth Maul from the first Star Wars film, is scary but also somehow comical, so the movie isn’t too intense. Insidious has a slightly predictable twist at the end that is of course very insidious.
No, Insidious isn’t a bloodbath like Wan’s Saw franchise, and neither is it as unnervingly realistic as Paranormal Activity, but any true horror fan will be entertained. Though it pales in comparison to legendary scary movies like The Ring, or Child’s Play, younger generations who’ve yet to be exposed to these classics may have trouble sleeping after Insidious.

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