As I’ve mentioned on here before, I consider myself quite a hardened horror fan. It takes a lot to actually scare me. The stuff I find that tends to inflict sleepless nights upon me is low-key, subtly suggestive material, not wall to wall gore. That, and the work of Lucio Fulci, which while arguably crass and unsophisticated, still finds its way under my skin with its dank nihilism and flesh-shredding cruelty. The last film I saw that truly ‘scared’ me was Insidious. In it, a family who believe their house is haunted eventually realise that their comatose son has been attracting evil spirits who want to possess his body, while his soul is stuck in a permanent state of astral projection, lost in a shadowy realm where the dead don’t rest easy. Even though the film follows a vulnerable young family and the inconceivable forces that dog them, Insidious still has a cold, often detached feel which really enhances its ability to disturb.
Perforated with unsettling imagery, methodically orchestrated jump scares, moments of flesh-creeping dread and (for the most part) a slow-burning and ominous atmosphere, Insidious is a well crafted and unnerving film. Before the final act, when the narrative takes a turn for the more fantastical (and arguably ludicrous) and we’re ushered into the gloomy, Fulci-like The Further, Insidious is perhaps one of the most nightmarish films I’ve seen in a long time. Deliberately designed to unnerve as soon as the titles roll (Joseph Bishara's sudden screeching music), the filmmakers have gone out of their way to create a horror film that not only ticks all the boxes, but still feels fresh and different. Not since Session 9’s quiet chilliness prompted me to leave the light on have I felt so unsettled after watching a horror film. It boasts enough bizarre and off kilter moments to set it apart from the usual modestly budgeted, studio-backed horror titles doing the rounds in your local multiplex.
One of the most spine-chilling and down right creepy scenes in the film comes as Lorraine Lambert relays a disturbing dream she had to her son and his wife. As she describes the dream, in which she is in her son’s house at night, going towards her grandson’s bedroom, eerily subjective camerawork floats us through the house to the room of the comatose boy and we move stealthily into it. Once there, a dark figure is glimpsed in the corner of the room beside the young boy’s bed, and gradually lifts its hideous taloned hand to point at the sleeping child with greedy intent… Dreams play a big part in Insidious, and a number of scenes evoke the darker moments from the work of David Lynch, particularly Mulholland Drive. Lorraine’s monologue really taps into a dark and primal dream logic, which adds to the already eerie feel of the scene. She talks about knowing she’s dreaming, but being aware that ‘someone’ was still awake in the house.
“I came today because last night I had a dream about this place. I was in this house, but it was late at night. I was afraid. I went into your bedroom, but you were both asleep. I knew I was asleep in the dream, but I could feel that someone was awake in the house. I went into Dalton's room. There was something in there with him. It was standing there in the corner. I asked it "Who are you?" and it said it was a visitor. I said "What do you want?" It said “Dalton.” I can still hear that voice…”
When we cut back to the scene with Lorraine sitting at the dining room table, one of the best scares ensues…
A few other creepy images from Insidious