Actually, the good news is, Insidious is NOT insidious. At least, not in a bad way. So, what is it?
Actually pretty damned good.
In a nutshell, this is Poltergeist for the 21st Century. It's a little more than that, but I can toss out that sentence and you *immediately* get the gist. And that is not a bad comparison at all. It stands tall right next to that classic movie.
The cast of this was great. I've become a big fan of Patrick Wilson, and he won't seem to go away, so that is at least working out. Rose Byrne is great as his troubled wife, and hell, even the kids are good. You can't say that often.
The only off note is the two paranormal investigators. On the one hand, they're just as goofy as you'd expect, but on the other, they do deliver some much needed humour to the movie. Although, that humour is also a little forced and out of place for the tone of the movie. It lightened things up when it was needed, but was still at odds with its own movie.
Insidious had some good scares to boot. There was a great sense of lurking fear and dread, and the way the movie used sound was quite good. The jump scares were at least justified, and not a single "Oh, it's just a cat!" variety, at least that I can recall. If you're going to resort to jump scares, at LEAST make them be your critters. That's all I ask. They didn't quite use sound as I thought they would, since they were going for a big thing with music and rhythm, but it didn't pan out that way, which is fine. The soundscape was amazing and creepy.
They also had some good visuals. Using single colours or a single lighting source at certain times, plunging you deep into shadows was used to great effect. Like any good horror movie, the sound and images always make you know a scare is coming, but the question then becomes exactly when, and how far into your seat can you hide before it hits? And like Raimi, they know just the right moments to spring the trap. Good jobs all around.
The creature designs were nice too, although most of them remained very human. The main baddie, the thing with fire for a face, was a great visual. But ONLY when they kept it at arms' length. When it was lurking behind things, in the corners, or the darkness, it was a great thing that could leap out at you at any second. The sound also helped it. But once the thing leapt out a you, and was in your face, giving you a good look at it, the terror died down a bit. It grabbed some of it back towards the end, but they really should have kept it as a threat that only appeared in the dark.
And sadly, the *ahem* twist ending you can see coming. Just once I'd like a movie of this sort to have a GOOD ending, arguably happy. But no, they have to set up the twist of someone coming back wrong, and then go for it. Sigh. It was well done, and maybe just because I saw it coming is why I disliked it, but at the same time we've been there.
There's a lot of familiar ideas here, but the do good work with them, so I can't complain much. The movie succeeds most of the time, and is so well done that the flaws are more "Aww shucks" type things than anything that truly ruins the movie. This is a must watch for any fan of horror. It's nice to see a movie that isn't a remake (as such) or a sequel.
I want to go read King's "The Sun Dog" now.