"Insidious" is one of those movies that since it's release has enjoyed a glowing reputation as being a return to horror. Many have hailed "Insidious" as being quite possibly one of the scariest movies they've ever seen. When I first sat down to watch "Insidious" with my wife, Kim, we weren't exactly certain what to make of it, we both gave it an "A" for effort but in terms of it being scary...like down right, "I am not gonna sleep after seeing this movie...", jumping at every weird noise I hear at night, scary...absolutely not. We both agreed that the movie was interesting but failed at being anything but a good idea gone horribly awry. However, after giving the movie some thought, I realized that "Insidious" is actually pretty freakin' horrible and in this article I'll explain my reasoning and let you be the judge. Assuming you haven't seen the film this will be SPOILER HEAVY, so if you haven't seen the film and would like to remain unspoiled, go watch it, come back and check it, or if you just don't give a crap then hey, welcome and enjoy.
So a quick synopsis on what "Insidious" is about. "Insidious" is about a family who move into a new house, their son, Dalton falls into a unexplainable coma and suddenly strange events and hauntings happen in the house causing the family to move to another house. But after moving the hauntings continue, with the aide of a psychic, the family discovers that their house isn't haunted but rather Dalton is haunted. Dalton has the ability of astral projection (an ability in which a person's consciousness is able to leave a person's body) an ability he inherited from his father, Josh. Through this ability Dalton has traveled to a realm known as "The Further" and has essentially become stuck there. But as he's stuck in "The Further", other spirits trapped in "The Further" are attempting to escape and possess the son's body, the most glaring of these spirits in a demon. Now it's up to the father to remember his ability of astral projection to enter into "The Further" and save his son.
Right off the bat, none of this is scary. While the idea of astral projection is an interesting one, this doesn't make for good horror when you have a supernatural ability that is hereditary. Setting that aside, let's ask a few pressing questions. "What exactly is "The Further?" I know this is addressed in the movie and I don't need this question answered to a definitive degree that we know everything single thing there is to know about it. I'm asking this question because of The Demon's Lair. In the final act in the film, Josh goes to The Demon's lair and finds Dalton chained to the floor and the demon upstairs sharpening his claws and playing a record...my question, "Where the hell did that record come from?", "Do they have records and record players readily available in The Further?". I understand that the song was inserted for added creepiness, but there is no in-world reason why that song would be playing, unless the demon somehow had access to records, record players and just decided on that song because he just so happened to like it. Ultimately, this raises major questions about the exact nature of "The Further". But my next question raises more questions about "The Further".
In the 3rd act of the film, Josh finds his son in the demon's lair and in order to make their escape, Josh tells Dalton to look into his eyes and realize that (in his words) "None of this real." and Josh is able to magically unlock the chains and Dalton escapes...excuse me? No seriously, excuse me but...I was under the impression that "The Further" was in fact a real place. The Psychic Lady who's name I can't be bothered to remember, described "The Further" as a place Dalton should be very much afraid of, his initial lack of fear caused him to be under the impression that his astral travels were merely dreams but in thinking their dreams, he's traveled too far (all of this is according to the Psychic Lady). "The Further" as she explains it is "far beyond their own, it's all around them and it's a place without time as they know it, it's a dark realm full of tortured souls of the dead, a place not meant for the living.", nowhere in that description did the words "not real" appear. From my understanding "The Further" is akin to the fog world of "Silent Hill", where two people can be in the same place but in a different layer of reality. For example, you're in your house in our world, but someone else is also in your house in "The Further", these two layers are right on top of each other but in two different planes of reality, therefore one is completely unaware of the other. And the film presented "The Further" in that way when Josh was able to step outside himself and see what was going on around him.
|This is SUPER dangerous and not real.|
However, somewhere in the screenwriting process, the story hit a bump and all of a sudden one is able to escape "The Further" by simplying realizing it's not real...despite the incredible danger that such a realm should present to a living person. Also, despite being an incredible danger to the living, the living are actually much stronger than beings confined to "The Further" because they're alive. So my question is where exactly is The Demon's Lair in "The Further", Josh had to go through a Red Door in order to get there...but where exactly did that red door lead? Hell, or was that just another locale in "The Further"? Also during The Seance scene, why is it that The Psychic Lady had to wear that apparatus and had to speak at a low volume through Peter, who was allowed speak outloud? Why couldn't she speak to Dalton directly?
I don't think that was explained exactly. In her breakdown of it, she never explained why no one else could say anything except for herself and Peter. I could see if she was wearing headphones attached to some kind of voice amplifying technology that'd allow her to hear Dalton if he replied but such wasn't the case. She was communicating through Peter while speaking to Dalton directly...and that was never explained. Yes, I understand that Peter was writing down Dalton's replies but is that entirely necessary? And she could've just as easily carried on the conversation one way...so again why did she have to speak through Peter and not directly to Dalton?
All in all, I don't see what's specifically scary about this movie. I don't have the ability to astral project and therefore have no fear of getting lost in "The Further" and even if I did, I could just escape by realizing that it's not real. This movie didn't rely on jump scares and that's a MAJOR plus for it but at the same time the movie had no genuine scare in my opinion. There was no moment where I felt urged to look away from the screen or curl into a massive ball of tension while I waited for whatever was about to happen to happen or found myself unable to sleep because of a single image that haunted my mind. This movie had absolutely nothing to scare me with and was nothing more than an interesting movie that in all honesty should have been a novel. Now I know what you're thinking, you're probably thinking that I'm one of those blood, guts and gore hounds who think horror movie equals someone getting mutilated or you probably think I'm one of those immature moviegoers who think jump scares equal scary.
|Hi, just wanted to let everyone know that I'm totally NOT Darth Maul.|
No, obviously I'm not. You can have a genuinely scary movie where there isn't blood, guts and gore and where jump scares aren't present, I present to you "The Caller" as a perfect example of a movie that manages to be extremely unsettling and scary. However, "Insidious" didn't have enough danger or high enough stakes for me to feel any tension for the characters. After all, if The Demon really wanted Dalton's body he'd have tried MUCH harder than he did to keep Dalton there and he didn't even do much in terms of interacting with the family and he never presented himself as an immediate danger. The other ghosts who appeared in the film didn't come off as malevolent and again never presented themselves as a serious problem, I mean hell, aside from being accosted by a ghost when Renee was in bed, one ghost was obviously playing hide'n'seek with her.
|Hey, hey kid come back! Please, we can play Uno! Please!!|
In the case of The "Paranormal Activity" Series, at least the demon in there became increasingly violent as it's power increased and each interaction had with it an under current of dread until it was finally able to drag Katie out of bed and into another room. But the demon in "Insidious" did nothing to live up to the film's namesake, and for some much time being spent on this creature and for him to be built up as the final threat of this movie, the final conflict between Josh and The Demon was non-existent. Now I know the film concluded with The Woman In White finally being able to possess Josh (thus leaving the film open for a sequel, that I hear from my wife is hysterical) but this series could've had it's cake and ate it too if The Demon had just been more of a legitimate threat than nothing at all. Anyways, those are my thoughts on why "Insidious" pretty much kinda sucks. Let me know what you think and I'll see you guys later.