Loud noises! complained moronic meteorologist Brick Tamland when Anchorman ’s arguments became too heated for his tiny brain to cope with.
He’d do well to avoid the latest from Saw writer Leigh Whannell and director James Wan.
Besides a score so emphatic it could resurrect Bernard Herrmann, this slick shocker squeals and shrieks at such a deafening pitch it’s as if the taste deities are trying to drown out Renai (Rose Byrne)’s terrible ballads.
A songwriter and stay-at-home mother (momposer?) who’s just moved her family into a huge new house, Renai starts hearing strange voices through the baby monitor, followed by bangs on the ceiling.
But before useless hubby-with-a-secret josh (Patrick Wilson) can explain, their oldest son, Dalton (Ty Simpkins), has fallen into a coma and hideous demons from another dimension are stomping the corridors.
Although it’s several decibels short of subtle, for its first 45 minutes, Insidious is genuinely unnerving, offering some of the best-orchestrated scares since Oren ‘Paranormal Activity’ Peli (here producing) forgot to shut his bedroom door.
Wheyfaced strangers apparate and attack in the night without warning – could this be the ultimate price for giving your kids surnames instead of first names (Dalton’s younger sibling is called foster)?
Whatever the explanation, it’s a well-oiled fright machine. If only the second half were as smooth as Wan’s Vaselined camera glides.
Dalton, it transpires, has astrally projected himself into the further, “a dark world filled with the tortured souls of the dead” according to kindly medium Elise (Lin Shaye).
Elise has had previous dealings with the family, wouldn’t you know it, but details of the further, a hokey, catch-all premise if ever we heard one, are banged home so clumsily (through Dalton’s drawings, some Photoshopped childhood photos and matriarch Barbara Hershey’s endless exposition) that the film’s cheeky homages start to feel like lazy steals.
Besides entire sequences borrowed from Poltergeist and The Orphanage, the (admittedly creepy) chief antagonist combines Darth Maul’s bright-red make-up with the razored glove of a well-known dream fiend.
Indeed, by the time Wilson’s wandering the next dimension like a long-lost elm Street dad, the further’s become a bit too far-fetched, and the soundtrack’s not the only thing that’s creaking loudly.
Promising and, in places, highly effective, this haunted-house variant more than fulfils its Friday Night fright flick duties but could have pushed through to a whole new plane.