In horror movies (as in life?), it's better to have one brilliant gimmick, crude yet effective, than several sensible ideas---or even bold ones. So it is that Australia's James Wan, a mere 34 years of age, will always be remembered for carving Saw, a 2004 little-indie-that-could that spawned a franchise and unwittingly emblematized its torturous decade.
No doubt snobs will nod approvingly at Wan's step forward with the higher-toned Insidious, a haunted-house thriller whose title alone suggests a trip to the library. Yet the film's low-budget atmospherics and clichd floor-creakings are a poor substitute for Wan's nauseating impact of yore. Written by the director's longtime collaborator Leigh Whannell (who also appears in a small role), the new movie follows the Poltergeist playbook to an almost plagiaristic degree, complete with a believably warm couple (Wilson and Byrne) wrecked by paranormal goings-on, a child taken to an alternate astral plane and a weird female specialist (Shaye) brought in to lure the kid back from the "further."
None of this is particularly well wrought, and only a bizarre gas mask worn by the sance leader counts as an inspired (if slightly silly) touch. The demon is revealed to be a fan of Tiny Tim's "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" and, evidently, Darth Maul's face paint.
Watch the trailer