Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai (Rose Byrne) are a loving couple with three kids who were clearly named by an Australian scriptwriter: baby Cali and older sons Dalton and Foster. Dalton suddenly goes into a coma-like state that doctors can’t explain. The person who can explain it is family friend Elise (Lin Shaye); she says Dalton was traveling in the astral plane and got lost. Meanwhile, ghosts are fighting over possession of his physical body. There is also a demon that’s pretty close to getting in, too. Josh learns he also has a similar traveling ability, and guided by Elise and her assistants Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), sets out to save his son.
Insidious is the scariest movie I’ve seen since The Strangers. I saw it in the theatre, and it kept me up that night. My sisters and our partners giggled at the cheesy opening (a loud “Bwaum!” sound and a title card), but I quickly realized the filmmakers meant business. There are a number of skin-crawling moments, my favorite being the scene when Renai is menaced by a ghost stomping outside her window—who suddenly appears in the room!
This movie is especially unnerving to watch as a parent. I felt for Renai when she struggles to feed her younglings breakfast and make an important phone call: “Talk to agent!” Josh is barely involved, and while of course he is saddened by Dalton’s state, he buries himself in work, leaving Renai to cope alone. The filmmakers make excellent use of a baby monitor’s scare potential as Renai hears a creepy voice over the monitor: “There’s nothing you can do. Nothing you can do. Give me it. I want it!” Indeed, there’s nothing Renai and Josh can do; throughout the film, they’re clueless as to how to help their son—a parent’s worst nightmare.
However, there are aspects that dull the scares, like an odd scene when a demon listens to “Tiptoe through the Tulips.”
There is also the question of how Renai and Josh can afford such a palatial home, as Renai is unemployed and Josh is a high school teacher. There is also a cheesy nod to Saw, with Josh’s chalkboard bearing a picture of the film’s mascot. Specs and Tucker seem to exist mainly for comic relief (Elise, Specs, and Tucker are also pretty blatant rip-offs of the ghost-hunting team in Poltergeist). Furthermore, there is the question of where Cali and Foster disappear to—ostensibly they go to Josh’s mother’s house, but while she is present at the end of the movie, they aren’t. However, it’s all worth it. Give it a look if you’re in the mood for sinister ghosts with creepy grins.