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April 3, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

Generally speaking, critics give short shrift to horror movies produced on shoestring budgets. In fact studios rarely bother to schedule press screenings for them at all. So it’s no surprise that some of the reviews for Insidious are pretty frightful. What is surprising is that several critics have some positive things to say about it. Michael O’Sullivan in the Washington Post may be irate over a scene near the end “that pretty much ruins the movie;” however, he warns, “You’ll jump out of your skin so many times that, after a while, you may just decide to leave it off.” Mike Hale in the New York Times also agrees that the movie begins as “a suggestive bump-in-the-night thriller with a few honest scares” but then degenerates into “a literal-minded, overexplained, jokily self-referential demonic procedural — in other words, a run-of-the-mill 21st-century horror movie.” Well, without a lot of the carnage of those movies, several critics suggest, including Liam Lacey in the Toronto Globe and Mail, who observes: “The goriest moment in the movie is a mysterious bloody handprint which appears on a bed sheet.” However, Lacey writes, the movie eventually degenerates into what he calls “a theme park fright house. Lights flash, the soundtrack rumbles and demonic faces pop up over people’s shoulders.” Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times clearly likes the fact that unlike the gorefests of most recent horror flicks, this one “depends on characters, atmosphere, sneaky happenings and mounting dread.” He then remarks, unenthusiastically, that it’s “not terrifically good, but moviegoers will get what they’re expecting.” Christy Lemire of the Associated Press is among the handful of critics who award the movie better than a passing grade. “Insidious is the kind of movie you could watch with your eyes closed and still feel engrossed by it,” she writes. Singling out the performances of stars Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, she adds, “It certainly helps [the filmmakers’] cause to have a cast led by actors who can actually act.” Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune comments that while he himself prefers the earlier elements of the movie that offer “indirect and atmospheric scares,” he can understand the filmmakers’ eventual compromise: “straddling the need to grab teenagers interested in PG-13 gotcha!s and the collaborators’ desire to rework an old haunted-house formula, honorably.” And Steven Rea concludes in the Philadelphia Inquirer: “If your idea of a fun night out is to be manipulated by freaky sound effects, jumpy edits, and point-of-view shots of ceiling fans whooshing menacingly, Insidious is the film for you.”