Dir. James Wan (2010)
A family tries to rescue their child from a ghost world called The Further.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Modern horror can be very controversial. For every fan of the JWU (James Wan Universe), there are ten detractors who will decry the way that modern horror just doesn’t explode heads the way that it used to. Some of those critiques are fair, but more often than not it comes off a bit “get off my lawn” to me, because at the end of the day, Wan’s movies are exceptionally well-made and often really scary. He was the first in the new millennium to make films that actually scared people, that felt more like complete films that weren’t just ripping people apart in the name of torture porn or retreading an old franchise that was perhaps best left alone. He also perfected the use of a violin-centered horror score, used perhaps most effectively in his 2010 film Insidious, another in the fantastic line of collaborations between Wan and Leigh Wannell.
Insidious is about a family who finds themselves thrust into a terrifying world between life and death, one that is populated by any number of bizarre and terrifying creatures, when their son falls into a coma with no explanation. While his earthly body is stuck in bed, his soul is trapped in The Further, lured there by the scariest of all Tiny Tim songs. It is up to his parents (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) and a paranormal investigator (Lin Shaye) to rescue him from this realm, a task that threatens to bring something back with them into the real world. And boy howdy, it does, because this was just the first film in a series that will soon contain five total movies. All three are fantastic, of course, but Shaye is the real star of the show, delivering a star turn that has helped to make her a household name in horror despite a decades-long career before this.
She was also in There’s Something About Mary, strangely enough.
Insidious is as much a family drama as it is a haunted house story, though you could definitely argue several more subgenres into which the film fits as well. The relationship between Wilson, Byrne, and the rest of the family is stretched to the limits, where Wan aptly explores the effect that these events would have only a cursed family. The ending of the film is brilliant, providing as much excitement as the audience could handle while prepping the way for the franchise to expand in the future. The creatures in the film are terrifying, and the entire sequence that occurs in The Further is practically perfect horror. It’s scary, effective, and introduces a brand new world from which to draw terrifying visions of fear.
James Wan is probably the best horror creator still working today. Love him or hate him, the man is a hit-maker, responsible for three enormous franchises in the genre. Giving the world Saw would’ve made his name legendary, but the fact that he was also responsible for The Conjuring and Insidious as well is just insane. He’s moved fully into producing as well, helping to move the horror genre forward by putting his name behind some great up-and-comers in the industry. While Wan probably wouldn’t make my top 5 horror directors of all time list, he’d definitely be in the top 10 and is well deserving of his lofty reputation in Horror Hollywood. Insidious is the perfect blend between a haunting and a possession story, a film that is well worth a watch and left an indelible impression on 2000’s horror.
Who this movie is for: Modern horror lovers, Wanophiles, Tulip farmers
Bottom line: Insidious is one of those movies that was scary as hell the first time you watched it and doesn’t really let up on repeat viewings. The acting is stellar, Wan’s direction is almost perfect, and the story paved the way for the third franchise Wan is responsible for (though this one would technically be the second because it came between Saw and The Conjuring). It’s an outstanding film, one that rewards rewatches and is an excellent addition to the Mount Rushmore of modern horror. If you haven’t seen this one, you owe it to yourself to give it a watch, and if you have, watch it again.