Insidious on Blu-ray and DVD

Monday, 12 September 2011 00:00

Horror film "Insidious" was one of 2010's surprise hits thanks to great word of mouth, and a relatively miniscule budget of $1.5 million reaped box office takings worldwide of over $90 million. The movie concerns some decidedly spooky goings-on that plague Josh and Renai Lambert and their three kids. Soon after they move into a swish new house, young son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) tragically falls into a mysterious coma after a freak accident.

The incident coincides with the commencement and then rapid escalation of standard haunting phenomena such as creaking doors, disturbing voices playing over the baby monitor and ghostly beings wandering around the house. Petrified out of her wits, Renai (Rose Byrne – “X-Men: First Class”, “Sunshine”) persuades Josh (Patrick Wilson – “Watchmen”, “Lakeview Terrace”) that they need to move again, so they do, only for the terrors to relocate with them.

Insidious - out now on Blu-ray and DVD formatsThe film was directed by James Wan and written by Leigh Whannell, both of whom created the long-running "Saw" franchise. You might therefore be expecting plenty of blood and guts, but their mission this time around, with a helping hand from a trio of producers responsible for "Paranormal Activity", is to give their audience the heebie-jeebies the old fashioned way. Jump shocks, creeping dread and the implication of monsters lurking just out of sight are just some of their weapons in their arsenal.

A lot of press quotes have been bandied about declaring “Insidious” to be a truly terrifying ordeal, and I am pleased to report that for the most part they are correct. Having introduced us to the lovely Lambert family, the film makers expertly crank up the tension with a playfully evil mixture of sights and sounds that suggest the two houses are haunted by some very unpleasant beings.

The camera is often allowed to float in front of a character whilst looking back at them, or behind them, glimpsing over their shoulder, either teasing us by not letting us see clearly what is coming, or giving us a glimpse of something horrible flitting out of sight behind the victim.

Staple sound techniques such as sudden loud noises, shrieking violins and ominous, barely audible deep bass notes reinforce the visual shocks. For the most part the movie does not present anything original that fans of the genre will be unaccustomed to, but that fact is irrelevant when the pacing and delivery of the horror is this well judged. My partner and I were gleefully caught off guard on a number of occasions, and genuinely wary of picking up a drink in case it was involuntarily spilt everywhere.

Despite the general lack of originality, there are a few moments when the film does do something unusual; a prime example is when a medium has to relay her visions through a gasmask with a long tube to the ear of her note-taking assistant. This contrived plot development is superbly unsettling, not least because we cannot see the growing horror on the lady's face but must learn of her discoveries after a slight delay, as the assistant vocalises the furious scribblings on his pad.

Thanks to some unsubtle and widespread marketing material, I am not spoiling the movie by revealing that it is the comatose boy who is haunted, not the houses. Whilst this is an interesting development, essentially hopping from the haunted house to the possession genre, it leads to a badly telegraphed final act where a substantial amount of the good work of the film is undone.

Budgetary constraints should have dictated that the makers stick to what they know best, and that is to shock their audience by bringing terror into the home. When the plot decides to change things up at the end, the fear factor takes a major hit and some underfunded special effects and makeup threaten to raise chuckles rather than screams. As in the original "Alien", the more you see of the monster, the less frightening it becomes. Exactly the same rule applies here, only more so, particularly when the primary adversary is a cheap Darth Maul look-alike!

On balance I still strongly recommend this film to horror fans who like jumping out of their skins and watching movies through the gaps between their fingers. The best scares far outweigh the relatively disappointing and predictable ending, and repeat watching will definitely reward the viewer with missed supernatural sights, despite the foreknowledge of what is to come. Check all the doors are securely locked, switch off the lights, and snuggle up tight because this is one film you will not want to watch alone!

The three bonus featurettes on the disc are:

  • Horror 101: The Exclusive Seminar
  • On Set With Insidiuous
  • Insidious Entities

These extras are quite brief (probably under 30 minutes in total) but they do give us an insight into the intentions of Wan and his crew, such as their mission to not present any 'false scares'. You will not find any leaping cats or fluttering birds here; every shock is genuine. The Blu-ray version presents a superbly detailed picture, and although a lot of the film is shot in low light, everything is visible unless of course it is not meant to be seen...

“Insidius” (2010) is out now on DVD and Blu-ray (reviewed), courtesy of Momentum Pictures. The main feature has a running time of 103 minutes approx, carries a ‘15’ certificate and retails for £15.99 on DVD, £19.99 on Blu-ray, or less from www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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