Monday, April 4, 2011


MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  Roger Ebert (2 1/2 stars) Fr. Dennis (1 star)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Ebert's review -

Insidious, directed by James Wan and written by Leigh Whannell, who previously worked together on the Saw movies, is a low budgety affair made in the style of the recent Paranormal Activity movies. I went to see this movie in good part because I knew that a good number of our younger people will go to see it, and to be honest, I’m done with this type of movie for a while.

I found the first Paranormal Activity movie fascinating simply because of its low budget ($50,000, using a rented house, starring two as of then "no name" actors and filmed using a few higherp-end consumer video cameras). Paranormal Activity II, which I reviewed here, which made extensive "dramatic use" of domestic security cams was already getting tired. Insidious, which a number of reviewers compared more to the older Amityville Horror series of movies, continues the low budget gimmick. It’s set in two houses, a high school classroom and probably the high school’s theater (where "the Spectral Plane" region cryptically called "The Further" in this movie was certainly staged and filmed). The quality of some of the "demon costumes" and "manakin undead" even begin to fail Steven King’s "zipper on the back" test. All of this, no doubt, was done purposefully for a "low budgety" (it’s not real) feel.

To be honest though, I’m not sure I’d prefer a high quality version of this movie, because as far as I could see, the movie’s sole purpose was to say "boo."

Yes, there is a plot of sorts. A family headed by high school teacher, pa, Josh Lambert (played by Patrick Wilson) and stay at home ma, Renai Dalton (played by Rose Byrne) move into a new (larger) house following the birth of their third child. The oldest child, Dalton, about 6 y/o (played by Ty Simpkins) runs around the house in a superman’s cape and a wand. He also draws rather imaginative pictures (as six year olds do) that the parents pay no mind to until he doesn’t wake-up one morning.

The doctors tell the parents that Dalton’s in some sort of a coma possibly resulting from a run of the mill "fall" while playing "superman" the evening before he didn’t wake up. But it does not really make sense. What does start to happen is all sorts of strange things in the house while Dalton brought home from the hospital after some time and eventually on a feeding tube, continues to sleep in a comatose state.

Eventually, Renai begins to believe the house is haunted because of the strange things happening in the house and convinces her husband to move. They do, but the strange things continue to happen in the new house as well. Sufficiently spooked, Renai even invites a Catholic priest friend over at one point but Josh, her husband discourages her from pursuing that route further, reminding Renai that they are not religious. Wonderful ...

At this time, the mother-in-law, Lorraine Lanbert (played by Barbara Hershey) takes on a more important role suggesting to Renai that she invite an old friend of hers Elise Rainer (played by Lin Shaye) to make an assessment. After some comic relief provided by Elise’s two "Ghost Buster" like assistants, Elise tells John and Renai that she suspects that their son isn’t in a coma at all, but rather that he had been "astral projecting" himself at night to a place Elise called "the Further" and that Dalton somehow got lost up there in "the Further." Since their son’s body was "vacant" while his soul was lost out there in "The Further" all sorts of spirits of the dead and even demons were now coveting his body apparently as a vessel to animate in the absence of Dalton’s spirit, hence causing all the paranormal ruckus in the Lamberts’ homes since Foster’s "coma." The rest of the movie is about attempting to find Dalton’s soul out there "in the Further" and to bring it back.

However, since the secular world of spirits in this movie still has demons who apparently want our torment our souls, call me "biased" but I still prefer the Priest, Holy Water and the Rosary to the goofy and ultimately not altogether successful solution offered here. Leave the New Agey stuff on the bookshelf and just teach your kids about God and how to pray.

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