Set against the backdrop of Charles Manson and his drugged out family of killers as well as a time when people were questioning whether God was dead, Annabelle features the demon doll first seen in James Wan’s film The Conjuring and the creepy looking thing scares very thoroughly indeed. On the plus side, there are some gooseflesh inducing moments and clever little touches that the audience may miss while screaming at the more obvious “scare.” There are not many though so it behooves the viewer to pay close attention, if that is possible with the rest of the audience screeching and jumping at the events unfolding on the screen. On the not so plus side, a lot of the scares are formulaic and although they work there are points taken off for lack of originality. The movie is, however, impressively entertaining and scary.
Directed by James Wan (Saw, Dead Silence) and starring Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy and recently Prometheus) and Rose Byrne (28 Weeks Later, Get Him to the Greek) with a cameo by Barbara Hershey (playing another mother, are they trying to tell her something?) and Lin Shaye (as the eccentric “ghost buster”) Insidious starts out by screaming in the audiences face only to whimper out at the end.
I do have to digress for a moment to talk about Lin Shaye. I first became aware of this actor when she played the mother in the horror film Dead End (this film also had the iconic Ray Wise, wow). I have since watched out for her in other films as I just adore what this woman does.
The film starts with the Lambart family moving into their new home. Through the mad scramble that is moving, things get lost and the house looks a shambles. As they start to settle, things are getting very strange and scary in their new home. Literally minutes after the family bed down for the night, the strange and scary things up the tempo.
Soon after, their son, Dalton goes exploring in the attic and falls off a ladder. In the morning he does not wake up. The parents take Dalton to the hospital, where they can find no reason for him to be in a coma. After a couple more scary nights, not made any better by brother Foster’s claim that the comatose Dalton is walking the halls and it is frightening him, Ranai (Rose Byrne) convinces hubby Josh (Patrick Wilson) that they need to move.
They move into a bungalow style house. While they are moving into their new home Josh’s mother Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) tells Ranai that Josh used to walk in his sleep. Ranai is taking out some of the rubbish when she spies someone in their house. Through the open windows we can hear Tiny Tim singing Tiptoe Through the Tulips coming from the record player. Ranai rushes back into the house to get the crap scared out of her.
Lorraine contacts a medium friend Elise Reiner (Lin Shaye) to come and cleanse the house.
The first three quarters of the film scares the crap out of you. I watched this in the cinema with my daughter and our butts left the seat of our chairs multiple times. It had the same effect when we watched the DVD at home. The whole first part of the film is brilliantly written and expertly woven to provide the maximum amount of scares per frame of film.
Then in the last quarter of the film it did something strange, in a kind of weird metamorphosis it turned into Poltergeist. I’m not kidding here, the last quarter of the film was straight from the Poltergeist film plot. All that was missing was the short tubby little medium who called everybody “Pumpkin.”
I remember sitting in the theatre in a daze. “What just happened?” I asked my daughter, who at that point had not seen Poltergeist. “I don’t know,” she shrugged, “It’s like it became two separate films.” She has said that the first of the film, you could see was done by the same folks who did Paranormal Activity, and the second half of the film was the Saw input.
I just feel like they spent all their time setting up the scares in the first of the film, only to run out of gas for the ending. Insidious is a damn scary film, in the first three quarters anyway, but the rest of the film is a tremendous disappointment.
I will close by saying that this film almost gave me a heart attack in the first five minutes of the film. I can also say that the acting talents exhibited by the cast was top notch and made you really care about what was happening to them. It is just a shame that the script kept this from becoming an iconic masterpiece in the horror genre.