An ‘Insidious’-ly Good PG-13 Horror Movie

The creators of “Saw” and “Paranormal Activity” have come together to create a PG-13 creep-fest that doesn’t lose anything for its lack of gore and swear words. “Insidious” stars Rose Byrne as Renai and Patrick Wilson as her husband Josh. Together they have three kids and a brand new dream home.

Dream home becomes a nightmare

Unfortunately, that dream home quickly turns into a nightmare when Renai and Josh’s son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) explores the house he ends up falling off a ladder. Soon after, Dalton falls into a coma and that’s when things get weird. Dalton’s doctor informs mom and dad that their son has no physical trauma from his fall and there is no medical reasoning for his coma.

Dalton is taken home and for a few months he simply seems to sleep. That’s when the haunting begins. First, the whole family is taunted by some entity that sets off their security system. Then Renai begins seeing figures walking around the house. Finally the family is forced out of the house, assuming that it is the house that is haunted. I will stop the direct plot description there.

There’s something about Elise

The fun of “Insidious” really begins after the family moves into their new home and the ghosts move with them and Lin Shaye, best remembered as the overly suntanned neighbor of Cameron Diaz in “There’s Something About Mary” joins the cast as Elise, a psychic, paranormalist and expert in something called ‘Astral Projection.’ Shaye’s performance is arguably the most entertaining in the film as she is both oddly sunny and believably strange.

Elise with her team, including “Insidious” screenwriter Lee Whannell, informs the family that Dalton is not in a coma. What’s wrong with Dalton is one of the many fun secrets of “Insidious” that I will not spoil. Director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell prove with “Insidious” that they don’t need the torture implements of the “Saw” films to earn screams from the audience.

If you thought Tiny Tim was creepy before…

In “Insidious” Wan and Whannell use clever imagery to get the big scares. Watch the windows; in nearly every window frame in “Insidious” there is a frightening glimpse of something creepy. Wan and Whannell don’t stop at pictures however and when the spooks and demons begin coming in the room things get really creepy. Wan and Whannell even turn Tiny Tim’s ukulele anthem “Tiptoe through the Tulips” into an eerie set piece.

“Insidious” is a smart combination of Wan and Whannell’s talent for fright imagery with the conceit of the “Paranormal Activity” movies with their endless numbers of cameras, doors that shut by themselves and ghastly ghostly possessions. It’s a surprisingly good mix that somehow works even with the restrictive PG-13 rating.