The latest project of Saw masterminds Leigh Whannell and James Wan sees them collaborating with the producers of Paranormal Activity to create Insidious, which more than lives up to the hype generated by the horror heavyweights attached to it. Filmed on just $800,000, what they have created is a classical haunted house movie with enough twists and pure fright to please, and shock, even the most hardened of horror audiences. At first the story seems typical, with mysterious happenings in a family’s new home coinciding with their young son falling into a coma. As the events build to more frightening levels, it soon becomes apparent that, as the tagline tells us, it’s not the house that is haunted.
Whannell (writing) and Wan (directing) achieve a remarkable amount during the film’s run-time, cultivating an atmosphere that is dark and foreboding, never letting the audience feel remotely at ease. It is a short time until the first real scare, but nerves will already have been shattered by the tense tone, which begins from the very first frame. Of course, a film like this will live or die on the scares—that’s what a horror audience will pay to see. And, Insidious delivers massively. With huge jump scares, more subtle, creepy moments and some surprises, this is a film which has mastered the whole spectrum of horror filmmaking, and in terms of audience reaction and frights, easily rivals Paranormal Activity and even classics such as The Exorcist.
Whannell’s script shows a clear understanding of what a horror fan wants to see, taking on classic tropes and injecting them with enough freshness to ward off any accusations of unoriginality. What is perhaps most refreshing is the comedy element introduced about halfway through, when Whannell himself appears as Specs, one half of a paranormal investigation team. Their scenes are the closest the audience come to getting a breather, and the laughs will come as much from pure relief as from the humour. It is a real crowd-pleaser of a script, brought to life by some inventive and technically accomplished direction from Wan, who clearly has an eye for a scene when it comes to spooking the viewer.
Insidious is an exciting film, not only for the roller-coaster ride it puts you through, but also showing what filmmakers as talented as Whannell and Wan can do in a genre they are genuinely passionate about. The two are sure to collaborate again, and while we sleep with the lights on for weeks after watching Insidious, we can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
Insidious opens today