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  • Jeff Beck

Insidious: An Intriguing Haunter with a Lackluster Finale (4K/Blu-ray)


The Film:


Back in 2011, a little ghost flick called "Insidious" was released in theaters to less-than-stellar reviews, but that wasn't enough to stop it from being insanely successful, garnering a worldwide take of $100 million and spawning a franchise that is now about to unleash its fifth entry. To celebrate, Sony Pictures is giving the original film the ol' 4K upgrade with a special steelbook edition, so now's the perfect time to dig back into the one that started it all and see if perhaps there was more to it than the critics were seeing upon its original release.


At the film opens, Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Ranai Lambert (Rose Byrne) are moving into their new home with their three children, Dalton (Ty Simpkins), Foster (Andrew Astor), and baby Cali. While exploring the attic one night, Dalton has a small accident after an encounter with an unknown spirit, resulting in him slipping into an inexplicable coma overnight. Over the next few months, the family starts experiencing strange events, including multiple sightings of spirits by Renai. It eventually gets so bad that she demands they move again, which they do.


However, the frightening activity follows them to their new home as well, forcing them to seek help from a trio of paranormal investigators: Elise (Lin Shaye), a psychic, and tech experts Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Simpson). With their assistance, the Lamberts learn the truth behind what's happening to Dalton, and what could happen if they fail to save him, eventually prompting Josh to go on a very atypical rescue mission to bring their boy home.


I saw "Insidious" when it first came out 12 years ago, and perhaps once more not too long after, but it had been quite a while since I laid eyes on it, making it an intriguing experience to go back and watch it again with semi-fresh eyes several years later. It has the makings of an old-school haunted house (or I guess we should say "haunted person") film with its appropriately eerie mood & atmosphere, though obviously upping the ferocity of the scares through more intense ghost designs and, of course, the multiple sharp stings on the soundtrack.


In those departments, it has a fine foundation for a film of this sub-genre, especially when coupled with its suitably-emotional family elements. All of that works perfectly fine, that is, up until the film's rather troublesome final act. This is where the film took the most flack, and indeed is the part I remember hurting it the most, for this is where the film basically jumps off the rails and becomes just a bit too silly. Two-thirds of the film is an effective haunting flick that delivers thrills & chills, but when it comes to the explanation and the climax, you can't help but roll your eyes a bit.


On top of that, it essentially takes the momentum built up in the first hour or so, and pumps the brakes on it quite firmly as Josh goes about trying to rescue Dalton from the realm of spirits. It's not that this climax couldn't work, it's just executed in a rather dull manner that doesn't provide much in the way of thrills or excitement. As a result, we basically end up with a film that has several positive elements, but sadly stumbles too much as it tries to get to the finish line, leaving it in want of a better final act to bring it home. It's a film that had potential, so you can see why at least one sequel would be made afterward, but given the diminishing returns that followed the original, it still remains a mystery as to why audiences kept coming back. In the end, the best that can be said is that there was at least one almost-good entry in the series.


Video/Audio:


The special steelbook edition of "Insidious" features the film on both 4K (2160p) and Blu-ray (1080p) in 2.39:1 transfers of outstanding quality. This is a very dark film throughout much of it, but the picture remains remarkably clear & sharp. Likewise, the Dolby Atmos/5.1 DTS-HD MA tracks are marvelous, giving you all of the dialogue, sound effects, and score (including those sharp stingers) in excellent quality. Overall, fans will definitely not be disappointed with the great treatment that the film has received for this new release.


Special Features:


Horror 101: The Exclusive Seminar (10 Minutes): A featurette that has director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell discussing the film and their inspirations.


On Set with Insidious (8 Minutes): A featurette featuring lots of behind the scenes footage, with commentary from James Wan.


Insidious Entities (7 Minutes): A featurette that has Wan and Whannell discussing the film's various spirits.


Conclusion:


"Insidious" has a lot going for it, including excellent use of mood & atmosphere, some fun jump scares, and a fine emotional core, but sadly it's brought down too much by its silly & poorly executed final act, which quashes the film's momentum and has it stumbling too much as it tries to reach the finish line, resulting in an almost-good film in want of a better finale.


Score: 3/5


Available on 4K/Blu-ray starting tomorrow.


Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.



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