Paranormal Saw


31 March 2011| No Comments on Insidious     by Sean Chavel


Hokey make-believe but powerfully menacing. The restless and terrifying Insidious puts actors Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne in a haunted house flick that might induce nausea, headaches (like it did to me), disorientation or it just may make you puke. Maybe it will do none of those things to you but this is a good one to test how much you can really tolerate. It’s directed by James Wan of the original “Saw” movie but this creation might prove that while he might be a bit short on good taste, he’s not a sick puppy sadist / idiot without style. There is a little bit of Ken Russell (think “Altered States,” 1980) and David Lynch (think “Lost Highway,” 1997) inspired  here.

The couple lives in one of those creaky starter houses made of old plywood. They raise three tykes, but the oldest one falls off a ladder, appears alright, but then a day later falls into a coma. The doctors are baffled because there doesn’t seem to be any brain trauma or other medical signs that account for it. Three months later, their comatose son returns home hooked up to life support. Then ghosts of all sorts of freaky variety come looking to gouge the boy’s soul and scare the wits out of mom. The screenplay uses clichéd devices to ensure that dad misses out on all the physical paranormal activity so it makes mom look like the crazy one. He’s still protective enough though to move the family into a second house, but the ghosts follow them.

The dad as it turns out is more like his son than he knows. But he takes some convincing even after paranormal ghost hunter-psychics, led by Lin Shaye, have investigated and come to dire conclusions that their boy is an unwilling participant in “astro projection.” Part of the fun of these movies is to wonder how long it will take before the unbelieving dad comes around and acknowledges the horror and get his just (painful) dessert.

The far out success for a movie like this all depends on what the director can do visually. Before Wan turns his vision into a total other-dimension nightmare, he shrewdly uses a narrowed frame to enmesh phobia of what the noises are around the corner. Wan is skilled with employing black & white, bizarre lighting techniques, colored stacks of rising smoke, and teasing fade outs to black. Nevertheless, the slipstream into the satanic climax is where Wan truly lets go with abandon and sinks his teeth into his audience. It’s like the 1974 version of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” goes phantom.

If this sounds like an experience you must have then be cognizant that it will be far more effective on the big screen in the pitch black dark then it will on DVD, where everything is inevitably smaller, and no matter your home entertainment hook-ups, it won’t compare.

101 Minutes. Rated PG-13.

Note: I can’t believe it is Rated PG-13. It’s the scariest movie in some time, and perhaps won a softer rating because there are no oozing shots of blood. What the movie’s got is scarier than any shots of gushing-oozing blood.


Film Cousins: “Altered States” (1980); “The Entity” (1982); “Jacob’s Ladder” (1990); “Paranormal Activity” (2009).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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