The new horror film Insidious premiered this week at SXSW. Helmed by Saw director/writer team James Wan and Leigh Whannell, this bizarre story of haunts and spooks delivered plenty of chills and thrills. Helmed by the Saw creators, and produced by Paranormal Activity’s writer/producer Oren Peli, this horror film had a great foundation for success. Starring Rose Byrne (28 Weeks Later) and Patrick Wilson (Watchmen), the simple story of a demonic netherworld and a comatose child came to livid and gory life. With some great scares and fabulously creepy evil entities, Insidious comes across as an effective horror film, of the old school.
Josh and Renai have just moved into a new house, where hopefully things will be better for songwriter/stay at home mom Renai. When strange, spooky noises catch her attention, Renai chalks them up to the unfamiliar house. But when her oldest son falls into a coma, and the doctors can’t find any medical reason for it, she starts seeing things that can’t be explained. Her husband doesn’t spend as much time at home, so he doesn’t witness any of the horrifying visions Renai experiences, but he trusts she is going through something and when she asks to move houses, he agrees. They haven’t been in the new house for a day even when the creepy happenings that haunted her in the last house are back. Young Dalton is still in his coma, but his grandmother suspects she knows something about what is happening. It’s coming from a nightmarish netherworld called The Further, and Dalton’s soul is in jeopardy.
Wan and Whannell bring audiences a great, almost Hitchcockian tale. A mystery and a horror that relies on old-fashioned scares and a creepy chill factor. Both Wan and Whannell agree that they were trying for that truly scary horror film without relying on gore, blood and the gross-out effect. A wide shot of a darkened room become an extremely frightening effect, and the dim corners of every-day environments become sinister under Wan’s deft touch.
Byrne and Wilson plays the terrorized young family competently, with an understated and building tension that works well with the old-school spook story. Barbara Hershey and Angus Sampson also appear in smaller roles and do good work with the material. The comatose child being saved from Further is played by relative newcomer Ty Simpkins, who does the adorable child with an inner strength very well given his age.
One thing that struck me almost immediately was the music. It’s harsh, it’s jarring and it is used effectively as anther character to build the eerie atmosphere. It almost reminded me of the sounds/music in The Shining, that same screeching/brutal sound that almost comes alive as a horror element, in and of itself.
As far as indie horror, this film is a cut above the rest. Given the budget (about the same as the original Saw), Wan has again made a film with relatively small horror effects, but that packs an enormous creepy punch. Look for it in theatres on April 1st. And for you die-hard fans, keep an eye out for the signature Wan/Whannell Saw homage, as Jigsaw makes an appearance.