Three men who have made a major impact on 21st century horror films are behind the making of Insidious. Writer Leigh Whannell and director James Wan who are the creators of the never ending Saw franchise that popularized the modern torture-porn sub-genre. Along with them is producer Oren Peli who directed the "found footage" style supernatural horror film, Paranormal Activity (2007), that became one of the most financially successful horror films of the decade. Those men working together was sure to create a lot of hype which is justified and worked with very well.
Insidious is a haunted house film that does a much better job working with the fears of audiences than most horror films ever are able to. Using jump-out scares without any restraint is never a popular choice, but when a film is able to add genuine frights also then those jump-out moments can seem much more fitting. There are actually slight moments of originality, with saying that, it is the execution of what has been done before that prove to be Insidious' strong points.
Renai and Josh Lambert (Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson) move into a new house with their three children. When their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) goes into an unexplained coma very strange things begin happening; weird violent mumbling, things being moved mysteriously, all the usual haunted house happenings. But when their son Foster (Andrew Astor) says that he is afraid of sleeping across from Dalton for a reason that would send a chill down your entire body, that is when you know this film means business.
Another strong point is this is obviously a haunted house film, though it is daring enough to go one step further. In every haunted house film don't we ask ourselves, and many times even aloud, "why don't they just leave the house?" Insidious finally does that and finds a very clever idea to justify the mysterious happenings following them to their brief new home. Now we know that it isn't the houses that are haunted, but instead something or someone else.
Now in a desperate situation, Renai and Josh hire a psychic named Elise Rainer (Lin Shaye) and she brings along her two spirit finding helpers (Angus Sampson and Leigh Whannell). They reveal what is really going on, which turns out to be quite predictable, although with its predictability it also creates a very interesting take on the idea of spirits and even the very popular idea of possession.
Speaking of ideas, I have always found the most terrifying thing about mysterious ghost-like figures as the idea of them. It is such a popular method for horror films to never really show their ghosts or spirits as to mess with the minds of viewers. That is a popular trick that could have been perfected here. Instead by showing the entire bodies, of the spirits and even their faces the frights just don't seem as haunting. I found many of the frights quickly lost by revealing the spirits.
Wan, Whannell, and Peli use the hype of their colloboration along with great knowledge of what audiences truly fear to make Insidious a film that can be very scary. Atmosphere and Wan's direction work very well with the endless attacks by jump-out frights. Many moments make you feel as if you have seen it before, chances are you have. Insidious has a passion to scare where it isn't afraid to go to extreme measures to create even the slighest fright. Popular audiences will find Insidious a terrifying delight even if it isn't very balanced or fresh.