Insidious is one of the biggest horror hits in recent years. It comes from the incredibly talented filmmaker James Wan and has helped skyrocket him to massive success. The movie spawned a sequel and has a third on the way. It is being touted as a modern classic, which would be great if I actually thought it was. But I don’t. While there’s a lot to love about Insidious, I don’t think it’s everything it’s been made out to be in the time following its release.
First and foremost, no movie should be called a classic when it is only four years old. That’s preposterous. After that amount of time it’s impossible to even know for sure if a movie is going to be remembered or forgotten in the long run. Everything James Wan did with Insidious seems to have been done with a measure of imagination and great intent. But when I first saw the film, there was something that didn’t sit right with me. However, I couldn’t put my finger on it until revisiting it to see if my opinion had changed. As it turns out, my stance has not changed. But I do have a better idea of what I did not like.
As many people are probably aware, there is a remake of Poltergeist being released this summer. When that reboot hits theaters, it’s a safe bet that those not in the know will brush it off saying it borrowed too heavily from Insidious. But that is because Insidious borrowed too heavily from the original Poltergeist. Taking inspiration from another film is generally not something to fault a movie for but when it’s the chief reason that said movie is held in such high regard, I take issue with that.
In essence, Insidious is Poltergeist with a few inconsequential details reversed. In Tobe Hooper’s film, a family in a supernaturally tainted home finds that evil forces are focusing on their daughter. The little girl is sucked into an alternate world inhabited by spirits and the mother, with the aid of a medium, is forced to go into that world to bring the child out.
In Insidious, a family in a supernaturally tainted home finds that evil forces are focusing on their son. The little boy is sucked into an alternate world inhabited by spirits and the father, with the aid of a medium, is forced to go into that world and bring the child out.
The only major difference between the two films is that in Insidious we actually get to see this other world instead of just seeing the perspective of those trapped outside it. The Further, as it is called in Insidious, is by far the best part of the movie. Along with a couple of excellent jump scares, this spirit-inhabited world is all that Insidious really has to offer in the long run and sadly, it doesn’t make the most of it.
For this reason, Insidious 2 is actually the better movie because it has already established the existence of the Further and can only go, well, further into it. Perhaps, the first movie needs to exist as it does in order for the franchise to work, but either way, the follow up effort is a more engaging, all together better feature.
Insidious is not a bad movie. It’s well-made, well-shot and at times very scary. But it’s not the scariest movie in recent years. It ultimately does not live up to the hype and it borrows too liberally from Poltergeist. While the film is entertaining, it’s definitely not the best horror picture to seer release in recent years. It doesn’t even broach the top ten. James Wan and Leigh Whannell have made better movies since its release and for that reason I’m still extremely excited to see what he comes up with next.