March 31, 2011

INSIDIOUS: What’s That Noise?

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Written by: Mitch Salem
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Worth a ticket.
The director and writer of Saw, James Wan and Leigh Whannell, combine again to bring us–hey, where are you going?  No, seriously:  don’t run away.  Leaving aside that Saw is rather unfairly maligned (before it became the poster child for “torture porn” and a dumb sequel machine for Lionsgate, the original film was considerably more ingenious and disturbing than most horror out there), their new movie INSIDIOUS is something quite different, a wholehearted PG-13 thrill ride salute to the classic haunted house genre. 
Insidious begins as all haunted house movies must:  a nice average family (dad Patrick Wilson, mom Rose Byrne, three likable kids) moves into a house where… something isn’t quite right.  Strange noises and unexplained incidents abound.  But surely it’s just their imagination?  Not so much:  one of the children has an accident that puts him into a mysterious coma.  I won’t spoil what happens next, but it turns out this isn’t just another story about a house built on an ancient Indian burial ground.  Wan and Whannell have something more ambitious, imaginative–and silly–in mind, and the story takes some very satisfying twists before we find out what’s really going on.  Along the way, there is a triumphant homage to Zelda Rubinstein and her crew in Poltergeist by way of the marvelous Lin Shaye as the head of a scientific team investigating supernatural phenomena, as well as nods to any number of horror milestones.  

There’s no pretext of seriousness in Insidious, but the Wan/Whannel team knows what they’re doing.  (Oren Peli of Paranormal Activity is also one of the producers, making for a virtual dream team of low-budget horror.)  Insidious embraces its own idiocy without deconstructing or mocking it.  The filmmakers, like the actors, never quite give in to laughing at their own joke:  Wilson and Byrne commit to the material, and Wilson in particular looks infinitely happier here than he did in ponderous vehicles like Watchmen and Lakeview Terrace, while Barbara Hershey, as Wilson’s mother, is both funnier and scarier than she was in Black SwanInsidious is a solid couple of hours of cheap entertainment, which is all it’s trying to be.
(INSIDIOUS – PG13 – FilmDistrict – 102 min. – Director:  James Wan – Screenplay: Leigh Whannell – Cast:  Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye, Barbara Hershey – Wide Release)
–Mitch Salem

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."