Insidious

What little optimist left in me thinks it could have been worse; at least our son wasn’t sent into a coma by a malevolent demon he encountered in the attic.

That’s the situation facing the Lambert family in “Insidious,” opening Friday. From the creative talents behind the “Saw” and “Paranormal Activity” franchises, this welcome twist on 1970s possession pictures contains some of the most effective scares I’ve ever seen on the big screen. Combine “Drag Me to Hell” with “Poltergeist,” strip them of their respective sense of humor and childlike wonder, and look out. Yes, Virginia, there is a PG-13 film that can be frightening.

Patrick Wilson (“Morning Glory”) and Rose Byrne (TV’s “Damages”) portray the hapless parents who learn their problem isn’t their manor, but their moppet. And home warranties don’t cover evil.

Director James Wan made a splash with “Saw,” then resisted returning for the sequels to make the little-seen and underappreciated “Dead Silence” and “Death Sentence.” Here’s hoping this one also doesn’t go unnoticed, because the man can stage suspense. He and screenwriter Leigh Whannell (giving himself a small role as a ghost buster) have rigged “Insidious” like a walkthrough haunted house. Although you know damn well a jump awaits around the corner, its aggressive appearance elicits the creeps.

And Wan pulls all this off without buckets of blood or a reliance on CGI. You won’t miss them.

Rod Lott

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