I went into Insidious really excited- I love James Wan and I think both “Conjuring” movies are incredibly well-directed thrill rides. Although Insidious is considered to be one of the scariest movies in recent years, unfortunately, I felt that the scares in this movie were really cheap and the characters were too thin.
Although “The Conjuring” may not have the greatest characters, that movie is so well-directed with such incredible atmosphere and pacing that it was a non-stop thrill ride. The scares were legitimately frightening and were not just loud sound effects. Unfortunately, the scares in “Insidious” are more like the latter; they are all accompanied by an ear-splitting noise that honestly annoyed me every time it happened. There were some scenes, like the scene in which the ghost is standing behind the crib early on in the movie, that were ruined by the ridiculously loud piano bang noise. That scene would have been so much creepier if the ghost was shown just standing there in complete silence. Having the loud noise only distracts the viewer from what is really scary about the scene. If the jumpscares were only occasional, I probably would have been able to disregard them. But it got to the point where practically every scary scene involved a loud jolting noise and there were few subtle scenes in between. The creepiest moment in the movie was when Josh’s mom showed him the pictures of the old lady demon standing beside him. That was an incredibly scary scene and did not include a headache-inducing bang; the creepy subtly was enough to make the scene work.
The characters were also very bland. I would have been able to overlook the cheap nature of the scares if I felt emotionally attached to the story, but I didn’t. We were supposed to care about Josh because of his past encounters with that old lady I suppose, but it was set up really poorly. In fact, the beginning of the movie was really weak in general. The characters were first shown in really sloppy fashion and I never really felt hooked like I have in previous James Wan movies.
There was a lot of creativity in this movie, though. The third act, in particular, was quite entertaining and the “ghost dimension” had a great atmosphere. It separated this movie from typical haunted house films. The designs of the creatures and ghosts were all great, although I must admit the main demon creature looked far too similar to Darth Maul and it is incredibly obvious that James Wan ripped off that design (that’s not to say that it isn’t scary, though). I also hate the fact that the movie ended in a cliffhanger. We never got any resolution to the film and they might as well have had the words “Tune in for Part 2!!” show up on the screen at the end. Despite the creative elements in that third act, to be completely honest, there were too many similarities to Poltergeist and it should have been toned down by a lot. It didn’t feel like a loving homage so much as it felt like it was ripping it off.
Overall, Insidious is just OK. I was incredibly disappointed with the lack of truly scary scenes in the movie and I hope that James Wan never reverts to the techniques he used here.