Insidious (Sue)


The Haunted Coma

Main Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey

Director: James Wan

I may be the only person around who counts themselves a fan of Patrick Wilson.  With his bland good looks he attracts parts that are, well, bland and uninteresting.  That’s a shame – I think he has more to offer than a generically pretty face.  He rocked the house in Angels in America as a closeted Mormon.  Insidious doesn’t give him a ton of material outside of the handsome man wheelhouse but once again I think he does an admirable job.  Horror movies aren’t known for their deep characterization but he and the rest of the cast give this one a little boost.

Insidious is built on a Poltergeist-like premise.  Family is haunted and child is target.  In this case the family consists of Josh (Wilson) and Renai (Rose Byrne) and sons Foster (Andrew Astor) and Dalton (Ty Simpkins).  Shortly after moving into a new house Dalton falls into an unexplainable coma. Spooked by the house, the family moves – Dalton remains in the coma.  It isn’t the house that’s haunted, you see.  The movie progresses with Grandmother Barbara Hershey bringing in a psychic to help free the child.

It’s not the most original of set-ups, but the meat of the movie built onto the well worn frame is solid.  The adult cast has enough skill to pull off the fear required by the situations even without a lot of jump scares or gore.  Byrne and Wilson are good but it’s Barbara Hershey who steals the creepy show.  She seems to have found herself a new little niche playing super creepy mothers here and in Black Swan and damn, she’s good at it!  Grandma knows more than she’s saying about Dalton’s condition and Hershey milks the role for everything it’s worth.

The kids don’t have a lot to do but I liked Andrew Astor as the older son.  He’s seriously creeped out by that first house, as well as by his comatose brother.  His fear translates well onscreen and helps establish the atmosphere for the rest of the cast.  Props also go to Lin Shaye as the psychic and her assistants played by Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson.  Shaye gets to the heart of the mystery, convincingly spooked by the evil she perceives.  Whannell and Sampson bring some unexpected and very well played comic relief to the proceedings.  Their bickering and other shenanigans could feel tacked on or out of place with the serious tone of the film but they’re subtle enough and spaced properly to take the edge off the tension without turning the film into a farce.  Director James Wan took a chance with them and it paid off nicely.

One thing Insidious is not is terrifyingly scary.  It has a few jump scare moments and some effects that supply a certain level of spooky, but it isn’t filled to the brim with ghouls, ghosts and goblins waiting to devour the protagonists.  The scares are more atmospheric and as such the pace is sometimes a little slow for the genre.  But overall it’s a decent horror flick for those who aren’t looking for a lot of graphic gore.  The cast is solid, with a standout performance from Barbara Hershey, and the setting and tone are sufficiently scary to satisfy the middle of the road horror viewer.  Which is me.  So 4 stars out of 5 for Insidious.

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