The pair play Josh and Renai, a seemingly happy couple who move into a new property along with their three children. In between trying to compose a few dissonant ditties, songwriter Renai hears some terrifying noises through the baby monitor and it's not long until tragedy strikes one of the family's younger members. Plenty of effective Paranormal Activity style scares and LOUD BANGS ensue, courtesy of an ethereal and quite probably malevolent entity lurking within their walls. So far, so good.
Then a group of geekish caricatures masquerading as spiritual mediums/ghostbusters turn up to investigate proceedings. Initially, their advent lends a refreshing air of humour to proceedings - much needed after the full-on frightfest. Yet they hugely outstay their welcome, a feeling that is compounded by the arrival of Barbara Hershey as Josh's nauseating mother. The movie's previously chilling tone and tension terminally dissipates amidst loads of guff about astral projection and demon mythology spouted by these newbies. It's left to an impressive sound design and the Wilson-Byrne dynamic to just about sustain our involvement during this extended lull, which is partly vanquished by a frenetic climax and sublime twist.
Prior to the lacklustre introduction of these paranormal investigators midway through the story, director James Wan masterfully reels in the viewer through a purposefully unsettling combination of subtle visual touches and garish aesthetics. This technique is epitomised by the jarring title sequence, which bombards the senses with a bloody red palette and booming cacophony, giving way to Wan's camera delicately gliding around the angles of the house - cleverly captured with a wide-angle lens. The camera slowly draws closer to Rose Byrne's anguished matriarch during the ensuing scenes, occasionally rocking back and forth to suggest that we could well be adopting a spectral perspective.
To exhume one more cliché, Insidious sets the bar very high - but only during the first 45 minutes. When tackling the simple 'family in a haunted house' formula, the freshness of the writing and direction manages to surpass the over-familiar tropes of that clichéd scenario. The subsequent attempt to transcend its trappings is a noble one, but its nature and execution is too flawed for it to work. Nonetheless, there is much to recommend in this reunion of the creative forces behind the dazzling first Saw movie.
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