‘Insidious’ – An Unnerving Horror Blast from the Past

If you watch a horror film it means one thing; that deep down you want to be scared. You want that fear to creep into your body, those cold chills running down your spine. But the more and more you watch the more jaded you become and the more you take that fear for granted. That’s the way I’d become. Every horror film I watched drew me farther away from the very reason I love them so much to begin with. I want to be scared. I want to feel like I’m being watched in an empty room. I want to tuck the covers tight and keep my feet under them at all times. I want to check under the bed for monsters and pray that I find none. That kind of horror film hasn’t happened for me in so long that I was afraid it would never happen again. But tonight I saw a horror film that made me feel that old familiar feeling of fear. The film is Insidious and it’s directed by James Wan and written by Leigh Whannell, the creators of the original Saw.

With 2010’s ‘Insidious’, director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell craft a supremely frightening throwback haunting tale that proved classic horror wasn’t dead. When a family’s son slips into an unexplained coma, there’s no medical explanation and pretty soon we learn there is no need for one. Something malevolent wants this child and will stop at nothing to have him. they discover sinister entities are angling to possess his vacant body. Fighting to reclaim his soul, they uncover truths that tap into our most primal childhood fears.

Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne play parents Josh and Renai Lambert, struggling to protect their son Dalton after he becomes a vessel for a hungry demon. With shocking reveals and unrelenting tension, Wan and Whannell slowly turn the screws on this ordinary family. His mother and father enlist the help of a woman and her crew who specialize in unexplained phenomena and the paranormal. She tells them that their son is a traveler in the astral world. Because he thinks he is merely asleep he is unafraid and becomes trapped there. This leaves his body open for possession by the dead and by demons, especially a hideous red faced being hell bent on taking the child’s body for his own. Can the parents save their child, or is he lost to them forever?

‘Insidious’ succeeds by mining chilling imagery from our collective nightmares – flickering specters in photographs, ominous red-faced demons. Many shocks are telegraphed, but Wan times them for maximum impact. He also exhibits uncommon restraint, letting our imagination fill in the horror.

Riffing on horror classics like ‘Poltergeist’ without feeling derivative, ‘Insidious’ proves terror need not be reinvented to get under our skin. Simply preying on those early fears of bedrooms’ unseen threats can render us children again.

By 2011, American horror had lost its nerve. ‘Insidious’ announced an exciting new wave by honoring the genre’s roots: our instinctive fear of what lurks in the shadows.

There were a few times in the film that I thought they went to the well too many times. I began to feel that they used the red faced demon as shock value way too often. But then I realized that Wan and Whannell are playing on our oldest fears. When you were a child, how was the devil depicted to you? He was red faced with horns, a pointy tail and a pitchfork. Wan’s demon brings back those old memories in a flood of fear and reminiscence. Insidious never relies on gore as a scare tactic and nor does it have to. While it does borrow from films such as The Exorcist, Poltergeist and of course the more recent Paranormal Activity it never feels like a copycat.

It may be too soon to call Insidious a masterpiece; so I’ll pay tribute to it in a more traditional way. I’m going to check under the bed and keep my feet tucked in.


In the scene where Josh is dismissing his class, director James Wan’s name can be seen on the blackboard, underlined twice.
In the scene where the class is dismissed, right below the text on the chalkboard appears to be a little drawing of the SAW puppet.