Entertainment
courtesy Alliance Films

Insidious: scary without cashing in the gore card

The duo behind first Saw find success with their latest endeavor

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Lately, it seems that true horror fans craving creepy cinema have had to choose between teenage slasher remakes or gratuitously gory films that rely on shock value and have little in the way of a narrative. It's been a while since a movie was scary enough to warrant watching through your fingers. Don't get me wrong, these flicks are brimming with blood and fright, but if you've been searching for a story to go with some seriously ghastly images, look no further than Insidious. The latest film by James Wan and Leigh Whannel (the duo who wrote and directed the original Saw) is so creepy it haunts viewers for days.

Renai (Rose Byrne) is a stressed out mother of three, doing her best to settle into a new house with her husband Josh (Patrick Wilson). Not long after she begins unpacking, odd things start to happen. Her books, baby monitor and sheet music are the victims of a curious presence, prompting her to fear for her family's safety. When one of her boys ends up in a coma due to a suspicious accident, she decides she's had enough and insists on moving. The family packs their things and relocates to a smaller, newer house, but soon learn that they can not evade whatever this entity is. With the help of paranormal investigators and a veteran medium, the family discovers that Josh must confront a repressed memory in order to save his son and put his past to rest.

In the beginning, as the names of cast and crew appear, the camera slowly roams the halls of a seriously spooky house full of images that will immediately have you curling up into a shivering ball.

The great thing about the scares is that they can be either blatant or incredibly discreet. You may not even notice that something is out of place or that there is a presence in the frame's periphery until your heart is already in your throat.

This roaming camera technique teases the audience throughout the film, making everything menacing -- from wind to an old grandfather clock. It is as though there is always something waiting to show its face, leaving the audience constantly on the brink of terror. This perpetual state of unease and discomfort cleverly heightens the moments of blatant horror by using the viewer's imagination against them and relinquishes only short spurts of relief before the next scare. Even foreshadowed images take on an unexpected, but striking form.

Toward the final act, the film becomes more and more like a hideous, real-life nightmare. The creeps and ghouls are unpredictable -- lingering, disappearing, attacking -- and keep the audience on the edge of their seats right until the final moment.

The film feels like Poltergeist for a new generation and is an excellent throwback to a time when horror movies were actually scary, not just blood and gore. An original, fresh take on a "haunted house" flick, Insidious is definitely one to see in the pitch black of a darkened theatre. Just make sure you bring a friend with you -- you don't want to be the one sitting alone, embarrassingly hugging your knees.

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