James Wan and Leigh Whannell are still among the most thorough horror filmmakers, even if their innovation seems to have dried up since they burst onto the scene with the brilliant Saw in 2004. Their most recent film boast the enigmatic title Insidious, but the subject and course of events aren't equally enigmatic unfortunately. It is well-turned from a technical standpoint, but it also raids the ghost story vault shamelessly and largely ineffectively, ending up as the lesser offspring of The Exorcist and Poltergeist.
Although the first part of the film is encouraging in the sense that the protagonists react to and deal with the phenomena they encounter as real people would, it also becomes clear a bit too early on that we're treated to a not too inspirational account on occultism, haunted house, possessed child, exorcism and that whole package. I've not seen a really effective film in that category since The Omen, but Hollywood still seems possessed (no pun intended) with trying to revitalize it, and not even a James Wan or a Leigh Whannell is able to avoid rehashing old material and ideas. Insidious unfolds predictably, and with its rather low tempo, we're given plenty of opportunity to find links to other horror movies.
The acting is uneven also; some in the cast go about it head-on, others are in semi-comedy land, for some reason. Did the filmmakers want to nudge those in the audience who were getting bored? Whatever it was, it doesn't work too well, and neither does Barbara Hershey's wild acting as the grandmother. If it was up to me, I'd want for Wan and Whannell to leave the spiritual world and go back to more psychological and fleshly meanderings. That's where they've been able to think outside of the box.