Insidious is a new — yet decidedly old-fashioned — horror thriller that is as dark and malevolent and its title suggests and yet, despite having pedigree bearing the mark of one of the cruelest film franchises in history, it’s not a gorefest. In fact, it’s something that is a rather rare thing in the genre today: scary.
“We were trying to first and foremost make a really scary movie,” says director James Wan, a filmmaker who, along with Insidious writer Leigh Whannell, made history with the massively successful 2001 thriller Saw.
“That was the problem with new horror movies, none of them are scary anymore. It’s all false scares and loud music, nothing like William Friedkin did with The Exorcist or Stanley Kubrick did with The Shining. No more craft.”
Insidious tells the chilling tale of a young couple (played by Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson) whose lives are torn apart when their young son is possessed by evil ghosts intent on destroying everything decent. And while the film draws its strength from many sources, including the fluid visuals of Italian horror and the classic chill of ghost stories like Burnt Offerings and The Others, Wan and Whannell’s clearest inspiration is Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist.
“There are a lot of influences in the movie,” Wan admits, “and for sure, Poltergeist was a major one. But unlike Poltergeist, Insidious was made independently and for a much lower budget. Based on the strength of Leigh’s script, I was able to literally assemble my wish-list cast and that’s what makes it so good, I think,”
Said cast also includes indie queen Lin Shaye (Detroit Rock City) and actress Barbara Hershey, herself a former lead in one of the most revered supernatural dramas of the 1980’s.
“We’re big fans of The Entity,” notes Wan.
“That’s why we actually have Barbara use the word “entities” in the movie. It was something that we just had to do.”