Sometimes, it can be scary to go back and revisit an old favorite.
Take Insidious, for instance. Way back in 2010, when this film was first released, I thought it was a good and genuinely frightening haunted house film. I had some issues with the film’s ending but, on the whole, I thought it was one of the best horror films that I had seen in a while. However, when I prepared to rewatch it last week, I found myself wondering if I would still feel the same way.
After all, a lot has happened in nine years. Not only have there been countless imitations and three rather forgettable sequels to the original but the world itself has changed. Things that were unusual or frightening ten years ago are so commonplace today that we hardly even take notice of them. That’s just the way of the world.
Well, I have now rewatched Insidious and I’m happy to say that, despite no longer being quite as fresh as it once was, it’s still a wonderfully creepy and effective movie. Was it as good as I remembered? Almost. That’s better than most movies can claim after a rewatch.
The story of Insidious is relatively simple, especially when compared to the sequels and the prequels that followed. Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai (Rose Byrne) are a married couple who move into a new house. Almost as soon as they move in, they start to hear strange noises and see strange things. Eventually, their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) goes up into the attic and sees something that puts him into a coma.
Now, one of the questions that is almost always asked while watching a haunted house movie is: “Why don’t they just leave the house?” In Insidious, Josh and Renai do just that. Realizing that there is something wrong their house, they move. They go to a totally new house.
And the demon that was haunting their old house and which put their son into a coma follows them!
Anyway, it all eventually leads to the discovery that both Josh and his mother (Barbara Hershey) were previously stalked by the same demon. Eventually, a psychic named Elise (Lin Shaye) is called in and Josh finds himself getting thrown into the Further, where he has to do battle with the demon who has kidnapped his son.
(The Further is a dimension that looks a lot like our world, just considerably darker and with a lot more fog. And a lot more ghosts!)
Upon rewatching Insidious, I discovered that the first half of the film was just as creepy as I remembered it being. Director James Wan lets the story unfold at a deliberate pace and does a good job of keeping the audience off-balance. From the minute that Josh and Renai move into that house, you know that they’re not alone and you find yourself cautiously eyeing every shadow and every corner because you know, at any minute, something could jump out and attack. The scene where a red-faced demon suddenly appeared, standing behind Josh, still made me jump even though I know it was coming. That’s what an effective horror film does. It makes you uneasy even when you know what’s going to happen.
The second half of the film actually held up better than I thought it would. There’s a tendency, among critics, to complain that the second half of the film feels completely different from the first half. All of the subtle scares of the first part of the film disappear as Josh wanders through The Further. But actually, the Further is an incredibly menacing and atmospheric location and the ghosts that Josh meets along the way are incredibly creepy. The image of the red demon sharpening his finger nails is still frightening.
Of course, the ending still sucks. Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done about that. One wonders if Wan would have come up with a better ending if he had known just how popular both Insidious and Lin Shaye’s performance as Elise would become.
So, yeah, Insidious holds up surprisingly well. It’s on Netflix so re-experience it this Halloween.