If there is one claim that horror flicks can hold close to their bloody chests, it is that the genre has pretty much cornered the market in ‘missed opportunities’.

You know what I mean – a decent premise, an interesting build-up and some neat shocks all guiding you not-so-gently to the edge of your seat, only for the whole thing to come crashing down like a pack of tarot cards at the death.

In fact, if I had a pound for every horror film I have sat through that builds me up only to let me down, I would probably be writing this from some beachfront property in California (sadly, I am not).

The latest film to join this ever-increasing category is Insidious, a sort of haunted house meets possession movie from the minds that brought you Saw and Paranormal Activity.

If that is a temptation (it was for me), it is worth pointing out that this is very much in the camp of the latter – with suggestion, noises and creepy goings on, rather than outlandish gore effects, the order of the day.

A young family (Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne and their two sons), set up home in a new pad, only for various events to shake them to their collective cores.

Slamming doors, rattling windows, shadows and a host of other stuff take hold, culminating in one son (Dalton) falling into a coma.

So far so Amityville Horror (or Paranormal Activity for that matter), but after the family move (in a creditable moment of sanity for a horror film it must be said), they come to the realisation that rather than the premises being haunted, it is actually their son himself that is being plagued by demons.

What then follows is a battle with the underworld (or ‘The Further’ as they call it here) as the family, aided by a bunch of spook-busters (including writer and Saw star Leigh Whannell) tussle for supremacy.

There is plenty to like here (and I mean plenty) – the first hour or so is superbly judged and succeeds in building a feeling of unease.

A lot of that is down to some neat directorial tricks from James Wan, who shows a vastly different set of skills than his efforts with Saw, Death Sentence and Dead Silence.

The feeling of dread, slowly picked away at like some festering scab, is aided greatly by the acting talents of Wilson and Byrne, although the latter looks in severe need of a good feed.

Unfortunately though, after adopting the softly-softly approach to great effect for the first 60 minutes, the whole thing gets rather silly towards the end as Wilson enters ‘The Further’ to try and save the day.

We get some effects that provide laughs instead of jolts, a lead villain that smacks of a make-up test for Darth Maul gone wrong and a conclusion that is totally at odds to most of what has gone before it.

This is not to say Insidious should be avoided as the opening two-thirds of the film are extremely well-handled, especially by Hollywood standards.

It is just a shame the makers could not hold their nerve to ensure we really had something worth talking about.

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.