There are two good things about the indie horror flick “Insidious,” directed by the original “Saw” helmer James Wan. One is the awesome retro-Bernard Herrmann-style score, all-nutso violins in the key of “Psycho.” The second is that it’s always good to see Darth Maul getting work again. The years after “Return of the Jedi” were so hard on Chewbacca.
Other than that, there’s not so much to say about a pretty conventional schlock horror story that might as well be made by a studio. Jennifer Connelly would play Rose Byrne as the harried mother moving into a strange new suburban house. David Strathairn or Peter Sarsgaard or heck, Patrick Wilson would play Patrick Wilson as the cursed father. A child actor from the Disney pod factory would play the boy going into a mysterious coma. The creepy noises and creepy voices would play themselves.
The only difference is that “Insidious” uses mildly back-to-basics spook stuff built around a family drama to get the thing done. The ghosts and demons don’t do much CG contorting. They just open and close doors, wear eerie lace gowns and hover ominously in dark rooms. Let’s just call them method spooks. I’m glad there are still spooks out there who love and respect the work enough to work on an indie budget.
I remember how much “Poltergeist” scared the living tar out of me when I was ten years old. It took me a while to look at trees or television the same way. I’ve been looking for (or more likely hiding from) that same feeling ever since. “Insidious” builds up nicely, until it tries to make itself make sense. When the psychic and her comic cohorts start slinging around paranormal explanations, it loses power by the second. It never lost me entirely, but I cared less and less.