Horror review: Insidious

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, MARCH 30, 2011

By Steve Newton

I’m a sucker for horror flicks that shred perceived notions of the safety of home, that haul their terrors right through your front door and leave them sprawled and bloody on the family-room floor. A prime example of that was Paranormal Activity 2, which earned my vote as Hollywood’s scariest release of 2010 because it managed to evoke jolting fear with pots ’n’ pans and kitchen cupboards, no masked maniac or serial killer required.

Insidious, a new release from the Paranormal Activity films’ Blumhouse Productions, was shaping up as a worthy successor to PA2 in the domestic nightmare–making department. But after a suspenseful and shock-filled first hour, it loses control and veers off into routine supernatural silliness.

I hate it when that happens.

Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson star as Renai and Josh Lambert, who have just moved into a spacious older home with their three kids, including a constantly squalling infant (now that’s scary) and nine-year-old son Dalton (Ty Simpkins). After Dalton has a spook-related accident in the attic and falls into a coma, the couple’s anxiety level goes through the roof.

With teacher Josh in denial, homemaker and aspiring songwriter Renai has to deal with the parental nightmare of a comatose kid on her own. And those creepy apparitions peering through her windows and menacing the child aren’t helping.

The family, deciding that the house is haunted, moves again. When the freakiness continues, though, they wind up hiring two ghost-hunting geeks and a weirdo spiritual advisor who starts blathering about astral projection and a limbolike realm called the “Further”. That’s when the previously dread-inducing film jumps the rails and a variety of stock demons—including a Darth Maul lookalike—are paraded in to, predictably, vie for Dalton’s soul.

What a shame that a fright flick so promising gets undone by its last half hour.

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