James Wan’s latest film, ‘Insidious’ managed to shock, scare and amuse the SXSW film festival audience during a midnight screening at Alamo South Lamar theater. The story of a family, who begin to experience paranormal activity in their new home, may seem like your typical horror film setup, but if anything ‘Insidious’ is a refreshing take on the ghost thriller genre, reminiscent of movies like Poltergeist, and the work of cult horror king Sam Raimi. The creepy visuals also call to mind the work of Guillermo del Toro. Together those inspirations create an entertaining film experience unlike anything currently out there. Josh (Patrick Wilson), a school teacher, his wife Renai (Rose Byrne), find themselves dealing with the unexpected coma of their son, Dalton.
They soon learn that their son is not in a coma but rather, his spirit has traveled through the astral plane, leaving his body as a shell to be invaded by wandering entities. The film deviates from the religious concept of ‘Hell’, instead referring to the dark realm as ‘The Further’, and using the idea of astral planes for the out of body experience.
With this, you get a film that doesn’t play to what audiences would expect most of the time, but something different, and yet familiar; a film that is not so much about exorcism, or holy water, but dreamscapes in the vein of Friday the 13th. Going in to the movie with little knowledge about the film definitely added to the thrills. During the screening I attended, there was a guy sitting next to me, who would literally flail his arms each time there was as a scare in the film. The visual, and audio impact are pretty effective, and the payoff is worth the suspense, even the most macho movie-goer would jump in their seat.
Though the family dynamic between the husband and wife characters Josh and Renai is mostly flat, and may not be the most convincing with dialogue that is mostly predictable, the film still stays on course to entertain the audience with a number of supporting characters, and visuals. ‘Insidious’ is a little bit of everything that horror filmmakers James Wan, and Leigh Whannell took inspiration from. They succeed in making a unique film that provides the goods, surely to be a favorite for anyone looking for a few chills, and thrills.