Combining Poltergeist's spectre of evil intent poised at the threshold, and Nightmare On Elm Street's gloved spiritus emeritus, Insidious provides scares aplenty, making it a perfect first date movie.
The evil intent comes from unwholesome spirits trapped in the Further, a place that's dark, endless, and appears to be one train stop from Hell. The paranormal investigator who explains the Further takes too much time to do it, and gives us more mumbo jumbo about it, and astral projection, than we really need to know; but getting to this point and moving on from it are what make this popcorn movie from director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell so much fun.
The Lambert family moves into their new home, a dark old house that has a darker, creepier attic. Soon, voices coming from the baby's monitor, dark shapes moving between rooms, neatly shelved books found scattered on the floor, and banging on the front door in the dead of night make mom Renai (Rose Byrne) fearful the house is haunted. When her son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) cannot wake up, and the loud noises and disturbances escalate, she insists they move. Her husband Josh (Patrick Wilson) reluctantly agrees.
Their new, new home is brighter and cheerier until those disturbances start up again. Muting colors increases the dread. When the Lamberts are in the older, darker house, it's still a tad brighter before Dalton falls into his coma-like sleep, then the color fades away. Color returns in their second home until the haunting continues, then it fades. Josh is losing his color, too. He avoids going home, saying he needs to stay late at work, leaving Renai terrorise en solo. Her mother-in-law Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) believes her: Lorraine has seen and spoken to the evil shadow with the red face hovering near Dalton's bed. She knows what it wants. She explains why Josh has been avoiding the situation and why there are no photographs of him as a child.
Elise (Lyn Shaye), a psychic investigator and family friend, is called in. Elise's two nerdy, geek-squad-style investigators pull out the ghost-hunting gadgetry and start searching for evidence, each trying to top the other with his technical savior faire. When one pulls out a flashlight after the lights go out, the other pulls out a bigger flashlight. Elise sees the red-faced thing hovering around the boy and realizes Dalton, like his father, has out of body experiences--astral projection--and has traveled too far into The Further: a place where spirits and demons dwell. He's stuck in The Further while they try to take over his body and use it as a bridge to reenter the living world.
It's hard to tell when Wan is being cheeky or serious, especially when Elise dons a goofy gas mask contraption to enter a trance, but the chills keep coming. I counted four jump scares I jumped at, then stopped counting but didn't stop jumping. Insidious plays like a William Castle spookfest. One of the pararnormal investigators even has his own makeshift version of Illusion-O to find spirits by looking through different colored filters.
If you insist on eating popcorn while watching this movie make sure it's not buttered; the people sitting around you will appreciate that. It also helps not to have buttered fingers when you need to reassure your date everything is okay. She (or he) will need lots of reassurance.
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