Insidious (2011)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Rose Byrne, Patrick Wilson, Lin Shaye, Barbara Hershey
Extras: Featurettes, BD Live

"Insidious" was one of the most talked-about horror films of this year. There was virtually no horror blog or website you could visit that did not talk about the film and how scary it was. Needless to say that I was extremely intrigued when the Blu-Ray Disc of the film finally showed up on my doorstep from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Josh and Lenai Lambert (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) move their family into a new home, a sprawling house that seems perfect for the couple and their three children. But soon after they move in, unsettling things happen. From creaking floorboards, doors that seem to open by themselves, the house seems to have a mind of its own. Then, after a fall, their oldest son, Dalton (Ty Simpkins), falls into a coma. While taking care of the unresponsive child for weeks, the house seems to become even more brooding and Renai begins to see apparitions.

Terrified, she convinces her husband and the family moves to another house, a bright suburban home that pulls away their fears. But not long after they settled down in the new home, Renai once again sees ghosts chasing through the house. Clearly the horrors had followed them… or maybe they had brought them along.

"Insidious" sets its tone in the first few seconds of the film, even before the opening credits begin to roll. While that is a great way to start a film, in this case, unfortunately, the jump scare that is employed in those opening minutes is essentially what keeps the movie above water for the rest of its running length.

I've seen many horror films, good and bad, and to me, one of the cheapest ways to scare viewers is by setting them up with jump scares. I was surprised – and disappointed – to see that "Insidious" makes excessive use of these kinds of scares, to the point that they even become predictable. Raising the audio level incessantly during the shrill scares does very little to convince me that this was clearly the key to the movie's scare-design.

Despite these cheap antics, however, "Insidious" is a very intense film at times. While the story is moving ahead at a prodding pace, the atmosphere itself is very tight and the ominous level of suspense does keep you on the edge of your seat.

The film is featuring a solid cast that brings across the characters very believably and the film's visual style is such that it meshes it all together very nicely.

Presented in an absolutely clean 1080p high definition transfer, "Insidious" looks wonderful. The colors and the superbly deep blacks make the film a pleasure to view, as it brings out the best of the moody and sinister atmosphere.

The DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio track is perfectly reproduced also with enough headroom to make sure even the inordinately loud stingers are not clipped. Dialogue is clean and clear and always understandable. As a whole, the track make good a active use of the surround channels, creating an engulfing soundtrack that enhances the sense of somethings-there that help heighten the film's atmosphere.

The release contains a few small featurettes, covering the different ghostly entities in the film, as well as some behind-the-scenes footage from the set. The main featurette called "Horror 101" is a mixed bag, featuring interviews with writer Leigh Whannell and director James Wan. While generally entertaining, due to their good natures, I found it particularly interesting to hear them talk about how jump scares have been so abused in the genre, while at the same time delivering nothing more than a jump-scare-movie of their own.
Also their discussion about the fact that astral projection has never been used in horror films is not entirely correct, though it's never been called that.

As I said before, "Insidous" is a very intense film at times that is sadly hampered by the excessive use of cheap jump scares. While the movie kept my adrenaline up, I had expected more, to be honest; something that was truly scary and not merely a roller coaster set up to startle me at every turn like a Halloween attraction. In the end you have a film that is a mix somewhere between "The Exorcist" and a lot of "Poltergeist," wound up with a lot of jack-in-the-box jump scares. Nothing new, nothing spectacular or overly innovative, but definitely effective.

Still, the movie is definitely good for one viewing, so grab a copy when you see it, or rent it.

On a different note, though, how a film like this could possibly have received a PG-13 rating is beyond me and clearly shows how inept and unsuitable the ratings system has become. While not overly graphic, this film is easily capable of giving young viewers nightmares for a lifetime as a result of its creepy atmosphere and is definitely not a film for children.