Insidious (review)

I can’t help but recall Eddie Murphy’s standup bit in which he suggested — this is decades ago now — that when a scary voice in your haunted house tells you to “Gettttt outtttt!” the best thing to do is leave. Haunted-house movies are starting to deal with this apparent plot flaw by giving us inescapable hauntings of people rather than of escapable houses… but if Paranormal Activity started the recent trend, Insidious picks up its gauntlet and makes it work in ways that the PA flicks don’t, and that one-up them by being scary, funny, thrilling, and deliciously meta all at the same. Patrick Wilson (The Switch) and Rose Byrne (Get Him to the Greek) appear to have a charmed life, apart from the fact that bad mojo seems to have followed them to their lovely new home. But then a spooky lady right outta Poltergeist (Lin Shaye: Snakes on a Plane) tells them it’s their adorable moppet of a comatose son (Ty Simpkins: Pride and Glory) who’s got the ghouls all in a tizzy. No spoilers: By far the fun and the charm of this simultaneously old-fashioned and newfangled spookhouse flick is in waiting to see where it takes you. What I wasn’t expecting were the sharp turns into comedy, as with the ghostbuster team (Angus Sampson [Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole] and screenwriter Leigh Whannell): they are a lovely example of how Saw vets Whannell and director James Wan freshen up an overworked genre by playing with the expectations we bring with us, as we’ve watched these sorts of flicks evolve over the past 30 years or so. Plus, they bring in a sense of humor that is not, as so many of these flicks attempt, about gore and grue but about our own jadedness with monsters and ghosts. Nicely done, fellas. Perhaps the greatest play on my expectations is that I didn’t expect anything like this from the Saw guys. Here’s hoping they will continue to surprise us so well in the future.

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