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Insidious

Year: 2010
Production Co: FilmDistrict
Director: James Wan
Writer: Leigh Whannell
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye, Barbara Hershey, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson

It's very hard to do anything new in a straight ghost story, but the Saw team of Whannell and Wan have done it. Ironically considering they were the guys behind the most successful horror franchise of the last decade, subsequent efforts like Dead Silence, Death Sentence and Dying Breed (maybe the word 'death' is cursed for them?) failed to catch on, and for awhile it looked like neither of them would have much of a career in horror or out of it.

Then came the one-two punch of Insidious and The Conjuring, the former cementing their status as horror specialists and the former effortlessly knocking over the blockbuster disappointments of 2013 like Pacific Rim, The Lone Ranger and RIPD.

When Josh (Wilson), Renai (Byrne) and their sons move and baby into their dream house everything goes swimmingly until a series of disturbances start small and build from there, leading to a Amityville-style 'what else lives here with us?' realisation.

When one of their sons falls into a coma amid the mysterious goings-on, they do their best looking for a medical explanation for it, but young Dalton has been taken to a place called The Further.

They enlist the help of kindly Elise (Shaye), a friend of Josh's mother (Hershey), who's assisted by two paranormal techs, the bickering Specs (Whannell) and Tucker (Sampson), and the story moves into detective phase. Elise explains that the spirits who live in The Further have been attracted to their son, and taken him to live with them, leaving his body in the physical world. Their evil plan, it seems is to come into the world and take his body because they want to live again.

Elise explains to the family that the only way to get their son back is to into The Further after him, something attained through astral projection and which Josh used to have the ability to do but has forgotten as he's grown up.

The depiction of the Further on screen is as effective as it is low-fi – it's just the same sets in and around the Lambert house, but lit with a dim greenish hue and drifting with ghostly mists.

Wan also performs the trick more than once of going against the scare rhythm quotient and making you feel decidedly unsafe. There are plenty of frights in the scary bits, but he's not above pulling a swift shock when you aren't ready for it, like when Josh and Renai are talking quietly in the kitchen in the middle of the day and the demon behind Dalton's disappearance suddenly appears behind Josh in broad daylight.

It's an inexpensive, pretense-free old school chiller just like The Conjuring, and even watching it on a computer screen in the middle of the day I had to turn the volume down several times.

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