Making the Grades
There may not be another genre so driven by formula as that of the horror film—though the romantic comedy might be a close second. The conventions of the scary movie include dark nights, shadowed silhouettes, creaking doors and screeching violins. True to form, Insidious has them all. But unfortunately, along with the parade of jump scenes, this script delves into the occult, depicting a satanic figure intent on possessing the body of a child.
Josh and Renai Lambert (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) have moved into an old home with only a hint of an explanation for why they left the last place. Soon after their arrival, their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) falls from a ladder while exploring the attic. The accident hardly seems noteworthy until Dalton slips into an unexplained unconsciousness. Not considered to be a true coma, he is nonetheless non-responsive to any external stimuli.
Yet more unsettling than her son’s medical condition are the creepy noises, muffled voices and slithering figures Renai begins to notice around the house. After one too many of these ghostly encounters, the young mother insists that the family move again.
However, even their new and more modern digs don’t stop the apparitions from haunting the family who desperately wants to help their son regain consciousness. Finally as the visiting disembodied spirits begin to mark the house with their bloody handprints, Josh’s mother (Barbara Hershey) suggests they call in Elise (Lin Shaye). The arrival of the psychic/exorcist is preceded by her two geeky ghostbusting assistants who scour the place with their specter detectors—and provide some comic relief for audiences.
Giving a sinister edge to everyday objects such as baby monitors, flashlights, children’s drawings and a grandfather clock, this film plies all the scary wares it can muster. Yet for teens looking for a good fright flick, this story’s obsession with paranormal powers and possession may push the boundaries, as does the depiction of a gruesome murder and other ghastly-looking characters. Unlike its title suggests there is nothing subtle about this horror fest or its intention to give audiences an uneasy theatrical experience when the lights go out.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Insidious.
What elements do directors rely on to create suspense and fright? How well does this film use those? Is there another setting in which this story could have been as effectively told?
Do portrayals of satanic figures and occult practices promote experimentation? What is the appeal of scary movies?
How do sound effects, such as a racing heartbeat, contribute to the images that are depicted on screen? Check out Steve Spangler’s ideas for making your own scary sounds.