Insidious Has Some Good, Genuine Scares

With Hurricane Sandy, we were housebound for a couple days, but my sister and I were two of the lucky ones. During and after the storm, we kept our power, Internet, and water. The most major inconvenience we experienced was not having direct subway service for a week, but on Monday the glorious Q started working between most parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan. With Internet and power, we were able to entertain ourselves with streaming Netflix, and I finally got to watch the horror movie Insidious, which has been haunting my queue for a while.

I’m glad my sister was home when I decided to watch it because the first half was so scary that I jumped a few times and maybe even yipped a little at one point. In Insidious, a family of five moves into a large house—mom and dad, two young sons, and an infant daughter. Patrick Wilson plays Josh, the father of the family, who is mysteriously absent for the first part of the story. He’s a schoolteacher and claims he is suddenly busy grading papers and tests. Knowing what a teacher’s salary is, I don’t see how this family can afford their living situation. Renai, his wife (Rose Byrne), is a stay-at-home mom and once-in-a-while music composer, yet they live in a house like this:

While Dad is teaching and grading papers, Renai gets to set up the household and take care of the kids. After getting her two boys off to school and her fussy baby down for a nap, she’s finally able to take a break and sit down at her piano for some R & R with her trusty baby monitor…and that’s when she hears mysterious, threatening voices over its speaker. I feel like I’ve seen this plot device used before in a movie, but for the life of me I can’t remember which one. It worked fabulously in Insidious, though—that’s the moment when Renai is aware that there’s something not quite right in her house.

Besides living in a haunted house, things start to get so much worse when one of her sons, Dalton (Ty Simpkins), falls into a mysterious coma. He’s whisked away to a hospital where doctors and specialists are unable to say what’s caused this condition, but they give the family hope that he may just wake up. When Dalton comes home (still in his comatose state), the haunting kicks into serious gear and various ghosts pop up, menacing Renai and her children but generally leaving her husband alone. This is the seriously scary part of the movie, where the entities appear for a flicker of a moment, like in The Sixth Sense or The Orphanage, and you never know where they’re going to be.

Renai finally comes to believe that it’s not her house that’s haunted but her comatose son. I have heard of this happening before, where for some reason ghosts attach themselves to a living person because of their warmth or some other quality. I’m not sure if I buy it. Once I had a dentist who liked to practice her New Age skills on me after cleaning my teeth or drilling and filling. She would do reiki treatments or something else where she would ring bells and wave tuning forks around my head. I didn’t mind that as long as it was free. But then she started telling me about how she could see spirits attached to me, one older, nasty woman in particular. She told me her daughter could get rid of her in a session and that she would set me up with an appointment if I wanted. I declined nicely and never went back to that dentist again. It just got a little too weird.

Rather than going this route, the movie ends up taking a Shirley MacLaine turn that was unexpected for me. But I found that once the monsters’ motives were revealed, they just didn’t seem that nefarious. After that, they end up getting a lot more screen time, but I liked it better when the monsters were mostly hidden in this movie. When they did come out, the scares were gone and they just weren’t that interesting anymore. Instead, I found myself more curious about this family’s source of income. Renai must have penned an incredible film score or something that kept them afloat since the family brought Dalton home in his comatose state—plugged into various machines with home health aides dropping by every once in a while. Either that or teachers get some killer health insurance.

Leave a Reply