• Insidious

    Released by: Sony
    Released on: 7/12/2011
    Director: James Wan
    Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye
    Year: 2011
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    The Movie:

    From Saw creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell, 2011’s Insidious follows the exploits of Josh and Renai Lambert (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) who are mother and father to two boys and a brand new baby daughter and who have just moved into a beautiful new California home. Josh works as a teacher, Renai as a composer, and aside from the fact that their new daughter cries a lot, they seem to have a pretty good life together, even if Renai can’t find her box of sheet music – the movers must have put it somewhere.

    Things change when their oldest son, Dalton (Ty Simpkins), heads up to the attic one night and falls off a ladder and bumps his head. Thinking it’s just one of those bumps that kids get all the time, his parents put him to bed but are horrified when he doesn’t wake up in the morning – he’s not dead, he’s just not waking up. The doctors run their tests and while it seems like he’s in some sort of coma, they can’t figure out how or why. Things take a turn for the worse when, after Dalton returns home from the hospital and is left comatose at home, Renai starts seeing strange shadowy figures in the house. Josh is understandably hesitant to believe his wife but rather than dealing with the problem, he opts to spend more time at work and avoid it – when she confronts him on the front porch one night, showing him a bloody, clawed handprint on the sheets she took off of Dalton’s bed, he starts to take things a little more seriously, and as he does, things only start to get worse and they start to wonder if maybe their house is haunted.

    And we’ll leave it at that.

    Insidious is, despite a few questionable logic gaps and one glaringly ridiculous scene that seems to be inappropriately played for laughs during the middle of what should be a frightening conclusion, very well done (a few moments of comic relief are quite effective but the last one is a bit much and it does hurt the movie). It builds nicely right from the get go, introducing us to characters we can have some interest in and sympathy for and while maybe using kids to get us to ‘feel’ for the movie is a cheap tactic (Paranormal Activity 2 is insanely guilty of this – not scary enough for you? NOW THE BABY IS IN DANGER!) it is an effective one and it’s not over used here the way it has been in other movies. Performances are strong throughout, all involved do a fine job handling the material and deliver believable and convincing performances – even the child actors involved in the production are quite good here, while the special effects, most of which are CGI, do a good job of bringing the film’s supernatural creations to eerie life.

    This is a film heavy on jump scares and stingers, those old horror movie standbys wherein something jumps out and yells BOO! in order to get an easy rise out of the audience, but there’s more to the movie than just that and when paired with some clever twists and legitimately spooky atmosphere, the film winds up a rather tense experience, and this is all in spite of a PG-13 rating.

    Told almost entirely without the gore effects that the Saw franchise has become known for (look for a fun Jigsaw cameo in this movie, however!) and without the gimmicky security camera footage that gave the Paranormal Activity films their edge, Insidious is, overall, a well made horror film that manages to actually tell an interesting story and feature good performances first and foremost, without skimping on shocks or scares.


    Insidious looks great in this AVC encoded 2.40.1 widescreen 1080p high definition transfer. While a lot of the movie is shot with that sort of cool blue tint that Wan is known for using, this isn’t at the expense of detail and it actually works well in the context of the film’s atmosphere. Detail is frequently striking and particularly revelatory in facial close up shots, while medium and long distance shots fare almost as well. Black levels are very strong, which is important considering how much of the movie’s finale takes place in the dark, while flesh tones look lifelike and accurate. Texture is great, you’ll notice this not only on clothing but also in the wooden furniture in the various rooms and in the attic scene where things appear dusty and decayed. Shot on digital video, this digital to digital transfer obviously doesn’t suffer from any print damage or grain, but it does show some very minor banding if you look for it – this is nitpicking, however, as the movie, for the most part, looks pretty damn near perfect.

    The only audio option on the disc is a good one, a fantastic one, actually, as the English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track on this disc is killer. Optional subtitles are provided in English SDH and Spanish. For a film as reliant on stings and jump scares as this one, it’s important that the low end be strong and there are certainly no problems here in that regard as bass is plentiful and powerful. Dialogue is always crisp and clear and there are loads of great ambient effects used in the quieter and more dramatic scenes to keep you on your toes and plenty more used in the more action intensive scenes to heighten tension and provide some fun scares.

    If there’s one area that this disc falls short in, that would be the supplemental department, though at least it isn’t barebones. A featurette entitled Horror 101: The Exclusive Seminar is a ten minute bit where Insidious’ writer, Leigh Whannell, and Wan talk about the story structure of the film, what elements make a good haunted house movie versus which elements make a good supernatural movie and how characterization is important to movies like this. On Side With Insidious is an eight minute behind the scenes segment that includes input from the key cast and crew members who discuss their work here, while Insidious Entities is a six minute piece that looks at how the supernatural characters in the film were created. Aside from that, there are trailers for a few unrelated Sony properties available on DVD and Blu-ray, animated menus and chapter stops. The disc is Blu-ray Live enabled and allows you to go online to access more content if you want.

    The Final Word:

    Slick, tense and scary, Insidious might not have the lasting effects of something like The Exorcist but it sure does make for a fun watch providing some great jumps and some genuine suspense. Sony’s Blu-ray looks and sounds excellent and if it’s light on extras, this is still a pretty great package overall thanks to the strength of the movie itself.
    Click on the images below for full size Bluy-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      I watched this last night....it was way better that I expected, that's for damn sure, with some genuinely creepy moments. The shotgun girl for example, creeped me out in a big way. Some other really cool stuff in there, too, but other parts that made absolutely zero sense to me. Probably could've gotten away without showing the "main bad guy" and been better off for it. And didn't realize it was from SAW people, so it's just gotten that much better, IMO.
    1. Paul Casey's Avatar
      Paul Casey -
      I hear that. Better than I was expecting, too. The bad guy reminded me of a muppet. So much so, in fact, that when I fell asleep during the movie, I had a dream that involved Muppet Babies (Fozzie and Gonzo). All the shitty horror movie cliche music cues are there, and some of it was lame, but overall, pretty ok. Oh, and Barbara Hershey! Yum.