The Shallow Man Movie Review: Insidious

“Insidious” is the new horror film from Australian director James Wan, the co-creator of the “Saw” franchise, but don’t hold that against him.

This is a good ol’ fashioned haunting, one with a tangible atmosphere, strong performances and plenty of skin-crawling scares. Initially, you might argue it’s a copy of “Poltergeist”—indeed, its similarities are many—but “Insidious,” for better and worse, does eventually stand on its own two feet in the second half.

Josh and Renai Lambert (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) have moved into a new home with their two sons. Renai is trying to write music and care for the boys, and soon she starts noticing odd things—boxes show up in strange places, that kind of thing, and oldest son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) thinks the new place is scary.

Not long after, Dalton takes a tumble in the attic, and later that night slips into something like a coma that doctors can’t explain. Months pass, and Dalton remains unconscious, while things around the house get even weirder. Renai is freaked out enough that they move to a new house, but that’s no relief. Soon Renai is seeing what seem to be actual people, like a young boy in period clothes running around the place, but who quickly disappear. Doors open in the night, weird conversations are heard on the baby monitor and the “Paranormal Activity” vibe sets in.

Josh’s mother Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) coyly says she believes Renai, and she invites an old friend named Elise (Lin Shaye), who is a sort of ghost-hunter, to check things out. She’s joined by her assistants Specs and Tucker, who provide more comic relief than hard science as they bicker over who is offering the more valuable service.

It’s an odd turn, but not as damaging to the film as what comes next, of which I’ll try to reveal as little as possible. There is talk of a place called “The Further,” which is as dopey as it sounds. Weird things going on in alternate realms aren’t scary. They’re expected. It’s weird things going on in our world that scare us.

Happily, we eventually return to our world, and that’s where “Insidious” redeems itself. Which is to say, it gets scary again. And that’s all we really wanted, anyway.

It’s far from perfect, but this is the best horror film of the year so far.

Grade ★ ★ ★ out of 5 stars
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