"Wait, we don't understand..."Neither do I...
So, ok, here's my review. I'm going to try and avoid giving any spoilers, while still trying to explain why I have such mixed feelings about this movie. Will I be able to do it? InsidiMAYBE!
First of all, I can tell exactly where the influence from both the Saw guys and the Paranormal Activity guys are in this film. From the Saw folks, we get weird ambient lighting throughout the movie that gives everything a feel that alternates from psycho hospital lighting to weird, grainy flashback treatment to the odd colored light here and there to make the atmosphere seem as tense and creepy as possible, even when the only thing happening on the screen is unpacking boxes or cooking eggs or something. Remember the rooms in Saw, how they always had weird green or way too stark white lighting or whatever so everything looked like you were on mescaline or something? That's the house lighting in casa de Insidious. From the Paranormal Activity guys, we get all the familiar themes you'd expect from that series - stuff moving when no one's looking, creepy sounds that are barely audible and force you to listen as hard as you can only to suddenly be slapped across the ears with a LOUD ASS FUCKING BOOM OR SCREAM OR SOMETHING, OH MY FUCKING GOD BOO ALREADY! So, the end result is a movie that looks and sounds and just plain feels creepy, like cold old people fingers on the back of your neck. When the people in this movie walk, alone, into a room where they just heard a strange noise, I feel like I'M walking into that room. I want to turn around and run out of there, but I can't because I'm sitting in the theater and I'm just being dragged into that scary ass quiet room with them. I wanted to yell at the screen and say "Get the hell out of there you stupid bitch!" But it wouldn't do any good, so I had no choice but to just sit there as they walked into that room... opened that closet door... and saw... Nothing.
"Oh my God, don't go up there, there's nothing in the closet!!"
Yes, in the fashion you may have come to expect if you're a fan of, or if you've ever just watched Paranormal Activity, the beginning of Insidious has a lot of spooky buildups to stuff not really being all that spooky. Weird eerie sounds and stuff going on in the shadows that results in a lamp swinging or a door closing by itself. It's not really scary, but it is creepy and it adds to the building tension that you just know is going to payoff with some real, over the top scary shit. The Paranormal Activity guys are masters at building that suspense, getting you so worked up that you're squirming around in your seat and jumping at the littlest thing in anticipation of something big happening, and they do it again in Insidious. The camera work, the lighting, the sound effects, the subtle introductions of small little paranormal activities to get your spine tingling, these guys know how to set a mood and for the first half of the movie, they are like master chefs, baking a spooky ass ghost pie and it smells like creepiness, fear and tension... and blueberries a little bit...
By the time the action was starting to pick up, I was fully hooked into the atmosphere that was built up on the screen. One scene in particular, I don't want to give any spoilers, but:
Yeah, shit is scary son, real fucking jump in your seat and yell in a crowded theater scary. At this point, I was like ok, this is getting good. And then, something happened... I don't know what. Ok, I do know what, the story went to shit. See, the movie looks and feels and sounds and IS creepy, dark, tense and scary, but the plot... well... The first half of the movie is a clinic on how to make an amazing scary movie. It's a film school presentation on all the right things to do to get your audience on the edge of their seats. The second half of the movie is a crash course on how to blow all of it with a bunch of cheap, hokey scares and a fucking stupid plot, that of course HAS to end with a twist, even though we're all so used to those kinds of generic, predictable ass twists that the REAL twist would have just been to let it end like you'd expect it to.. which I guess would be how you didn't expect it to, but you know what I mean, or at least you will when you see it.
Yes, I said when you see it. In spite of the shit that kind of blew the last half of the movie for me, it's still worth watching just for the sheer overall creepiness of the movie. I'm telling you, it's cinematically flawless. If it wasn't for the plot, this movie would have been amazing. Even when I was talking shit about how stupid the storyline was turning out to be, I was still clenching my butthole over the images on the screen. See, the problem with Insidious is that it's a really scary ghost story that turns into a really dumb monster movie. It starts out with an interesting story development and some easily-recognizable foreshadowing that you just know is going to end up leading to some crazy ass revelations at the end, and then it turns into a confusing, hole-filled mess. It starts insulting your intelligence by doing stuff like suddenly revealing weird, wild explanations for shit that seem completely out in left field based on what's happening and makes you say "Uh, wtf?" only to have the lead characters go "Oh, ok, makes sense, let's go with it!"
"Hey, I know you don't remember this, but you had psychic abilities as a kid."
"I did? I don't remember that."
"I know you don't, but you need to use them right now, ok?"
Character sits down and suddenly has full awareness of their abilities...
Hey, I thought this was a scary ghost story, not Poltergeist 2: The Other Side! In case you don't get that, Poltergeist 2 sucked as a ghost story almost as bad as Poltergeist 3. See, the "other side" is scary because we can't see it. When we see it, it's not that scary, because nothing you can show is as scary as what we imagine is really going on over there, and when what you show us is some stupid cross between a Nine Inch Nails video and an episode of Twin Peaks, well, you're fucking up a perfectly good ghost story!
Hi, I'm scary as fuck, but by the time you see me you're going to think I'm stupid.
You know, I was just looking back at that picture of the dude with the painted face over Patrick Wilson's shoulder, and I'm wondering if they meant Darth Sidious instead of Insidious?
Yes, he meant me, but "Darth Maulious" isn't as good of a play on words, so just go with it...
Anyway, at the risk of spoiling the dumb and frankly ridiculous plot, I can't go into too much detail about why this movie lost me just when it was getting to the best part, and why it kept losing me more and more the harder it tried to keep me hooked in, and why when it was over I felt like the guy who finally gets the chance to fuck the hottest girl in school only to realize she's the worst lay he's ever had. I mean, she looked so fucking hot and amazing, but by the end I could barely keep it up.
So, in my final analysis, I think Insidious is a pretty scary, tangibly creepy, spine-tingling movie with a completely ridiculous and silly plot. It's a turd wrapped up in the most beautiful packaging with awesome bows and glitter and ribbons and shit. It's a feast for the senses and a rice cake for the brain. It's going to be a FANTASTIC date movie to rent when it comes out on DVD though, honestly, because it's got so many moments that will make a girl jump into your arms and hold onto you like you're the last piece of wreckage off the Titanic, and the plot goes to shit so badly at the end that you can just work all that clutching and holding right into banging her on the couch while the landlady from Kingpin plays Zelda Rubenstein and not worry about missing anything.
Do I recommend this movie? Sure. It's a great-looking film with a legitimately creepy and atmospheric first half and a smattering of chills and jumps in the climax. It's also still better than Scream 4 will probably be, and for that matter about 90% of the other "scary" movies that have been put out in the last 10 years. Just keep your expectations really low and you'll probably enjoy it a lot more. Personally, I'll watch it again when it comes out on DVD, mostly so I can decide if I'm really being too hard on it right now, or if I'm just reacting to the fact that I went into this expecting a scary ghost story, being led to believe I was watching a scary ghost story, and then realizing I was actually watching Nightmare on Elm Street meets Dreamscape instead.