Insidious (2011)

Insidious comes to us from the minds of James Wan and Leigh Whannell the writer and director behind the original "Saw", one of the most genius and influential horror films of the last 20 years. Working together for the first time in earnest since 2007s creepy but disappointing "Dead Silence", Wan and Whannell return to their indie horror roots making the film for a mere 1.5 million dollars, a paltry sum by todays budget standards. To put the budget in perspective, Michael Bays annual Transformer abortions cost right around 200 million dollars.

It's rare when a movie with such a small budget receives a wide release in theaters. It's even rarer when that movie turns a 5000 percent profit during said theatrical run. Insidious is the type of film that, although having a great pedigree and terrific actors associated with the project, more often than not gets dumped by indie studios straight to DVD. Thankfully, this was not the case and the movie was given a wide release allowing the general public to enjoy it - in all its odd glory.

Joining Wan and Whannell on their journey this time are some top acting talent, if not names. Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy, Watchmen) and Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids) play married couple Josh and Renai Lambert. The Lamberts have just moved in to a new house, and with keeping with horror film conventions, it's creepy as hell. Before long Renai starts seeing and hearing odd things around the house. This persists for a little while, with the encounters getting worse as time progresses. At her wits end Renai convinces her husband that they must leave the house. He agrees - immediately making him the smartest man in horror history. So the Lamberts move, but the hauntings do not stop. Enter Barbara Hershey as Joshs mom and Lin Shaye (A Nightmare On Elm Street) as her paranormal investigator friend.

What happens after Shaye enters will determine if you like this film or not. The movie takes a hard left venturing away from the typical haunted house story into something more esoteric. It delves into spirits, demons and the nature of our dreams. In particular the movie asks the question - where do our souls go when we dream? And what happens if we can't get them back? Again, like I said, you will buy into it or you won't. For those that don't, it's understandable as the film becomes a completely different animal for the last 45 minutes.

There are some great performances in the film. Patrick Wilson is great as always. I've been a fan of his ever since "Hard Candy." He delivers as expected, despite taking a backseat during the first two acts of the movie. Those acts are owned (surprisingly) by Rose Byrne. Having seen her in a few things before this, namely Bridesmaids (she was the bitch) and 28 Weeks Later, she never really stood out as a great actress. The Aussie dispelled that myth in my mind however as she dominates the first two acts of the film. Her performance blew me away and really holds the film together early on, saving the first two acts from becoming another bad "Poltergeist" or "Amityville Horror" sequel.

Visually, Insidious looks amazing, especially for such a low budget feature. Wan is a gifted director who, even despite (the sometimes painfully obvious) monetary constraints, keeps the film as close and claustrophobic as possible, even eliciting some rare daytime scares just to keep the viewer on edge. The only disappointment comes from the knowledge that had there been more funding for the film, it would have looked even better.

Overall, if you buy in to the twist, yo will enjoy Insidious. If not skip it and watch "Poltergeist" - either way you will have a good viewing experience.

**** out of 5

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