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Director – James Wan
Summary by Will Milton
In 2010 director James Wan released the latest in his remarkable repertoire of horror films titled Insidious. The film features an impressive cast and summons the use of subtle supernatural horror devices implemented by films like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, juxtaposed with in-your-face scares a la Sam Raimi. The result is a film that is as thrilling as it is terrifying, with a host of likeable protagonists and equally despicable antagonists that torment the viewer right up until the shocking ending.
The Lambert family is moving into a new house. The mother Renai (Rose Byrne) is a talented songwriter who practices her art while acting as full-time mum to her two sons Dalton and Foster, and infant daughter Callie. Her husband Josh (Patrick Wilson) is a high-school teacher. From the moment they move into the house, Renai begins seeing increasingly strange and inexplicable occurrences.
One fateful evening, Dalton is exploring the house and makes his way into the attic. Attempting to climb an old ladder to reach the light switch, he falls and sustains a head injury. His concerned parents tend to him and put him to bed, but to their utter despair they find the next morning that he has fallen into a deep coma. Doctors are at a loss trying to determine the cause of his coma, and have no idea on how to treat the child other than to keep him alive as he sleeps. Renai decides to bring her son home and act as his full time carer.
Over the following weeks, Renai finds herself haunted by an increasingly menacing presence in the house, and it seems to increase in potency as it first makes itself known through terrifying noises over the baby monitor, then manipulates various objects in the house and finally makes several horrifying appearances. Renai desperately struggles to cope with her husband’s avoidance of the situation with their comatose sun while attempting to convince him of the evil presence in their house. Finally, after a night of indisputable terror for the family in which the sinister presence appears to threaten their children, the couple agrees to swiftly move house and settle elsewhere.
Relieved to have escaped the harrowing presence that haunted her stay at the last house, Renai attempts to settle into the new one with the unconditional support of her mother-in-law Lorraine (Barbara Hershey). Significantly, Lorraine is not at all dismissive of Renai’s belief that their antagonist was of paranormal origins, and appears very surprised when she notices a photograph of her son, commenting that it’s usually impossible to convince him to allow his picture to be taken.
Within days, Renai finds herself being tormented by the same apparitions that plagued her before, and in her desperation she tells Josh and Lorraine. Josh is sceptical, but Lorraine speaks with dread in her eyes about a dream in which she witnessed a shadowy figure in Dalton’s room. She recommends a medium to Renai, an old friend named Elise (Lin Shaye), who consequently visits the home along with her bumbling duo of paranormal investigators. Elise speaks comfortingly and authoritatively about her experiences of the supernatural, and her ability to connect with it. It is not long before Elise homes in on the source of the paranormal disturbances, and she discovers a wicked fiend looming over the sleeping body of Dalton. Her description of what she sees matches the figure from Lorraine’s dream.
Elise explains to Dalton’s parents that the boy has a potent ability to astral project. He is able to leave his physical body and wander around the parallel spirit world she calls The Further. However, Dalton does this in his sleep and is unaware of the risks associated with it because he believes he is merely dreaming. On one of his astral journeys he wandered too far from his body and became lost in The Further. The sinister presence in Dalton’s bedroom is some foul demon that lured the child’s astral form deeper into the spirit realm with the intention of taking possession of the vacant physical body and gaining access to our world. The numerous apparitions Renai has encountered are simply lost souls that are drawn to the vacant body in hopes of being reborn, but the demon is evil and powerful.
At this point, Josh loses his patience with this explanation and asks Elise to leave. She does so, but after finding some pictures Dalton has drawn that seem to corroborate Elise’s descriptions, he allows the medium to return and agrees to co-operate. After an unsuccessful attempt to guide Dalton back to his body, during which the demon and the various apparitions are given a temporary boost to their potency by the blurring of the line between the physical and spiritual realms, Elise bluntly outlines the only remaining hope the family has of saving their son: Josh must go into The Further after him.
Elise and Lorraine reveal the secret origin of their friendship; a secret of Josh’s past that has been kept from him for his protection. When he was a child, he also had a powerful ability to astral project, and his ventures into The Further attracted the attention of a demon in the form of a shady old woman from the spirit realm. Lorraine’s concern for her son grew as she began noticing this old woman appearing in photographs she took of him, gradually closing in on him each time he was caught on film. In her desperation she contacted Elise, who saw the best course of action to be that they make Josh forget about his power, about the old woman, and to never take his photograph again. Josh buried those traumatic memories and got on with his life. But now, to save his son, he must once again enter The Further. Elise guides him there, and he ventures through this bizarre realm of lost souls to eventually find his terrified son chained to a wall by the hideous demon. It chases them both through The Further, as ghostly apparitions amass around the two vacant physical vessels back in the real world, and after Josh successfully returns Dalton to his body, he finds himself face to face with the old woman that haunted his childhood. She glares menacingly at him, but he defiantly tells her to leave before reawakening in the physical world to a warm welcome from his newly reunited family.
Later, as Dalton and Renai are in the kitchen, Josh is thanking Elise in the living room. As they shake hands, Elise becomes very disturbed and looks accusingly at Josh. She picks up a Polaroid camera and unexpectedly snaps a shot of him, which seems to drive him into an irrational fit of rage. He grabs Elise’s throat, and strangles the helpless woman who tries in vain to scream for help. Shortly after, Renai enters the living room to find the lifeless body of Elise laid out on the sofa – Josh is nowhere to be seen. In her shock, Renai notices the photograph Elise took laying on the carpet. As she picks it up, she reels in fright as it depicts only the form of that evil old woman and not her husband. Josh’s body has been possessed by some monstrous evil. The final shot is of Josh’s hand grabbing Renai’s shoulder as she gasps, then the screen cuts to black.
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