Who's In It: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye, Barbara Hershey, Ty Simpkins
The Basics: Family moves into house. House makes noises and has some ghosts. Family moves out of house and into new house. New house makes noises and has the same ghosts. Family's kid winds up in a coma. And though the trailer and ads scream out that it's neither house that's haunted but is, in fact, the kid, you know that's not all there is to it or that would be the dumbest ad campaign of all time. And, obviously, there'll be no spoilers given away here, but the real secret is way more aggressively complicated, silly and--in spite of itself--jolting.
What's The Deal: I'm going to review this movie like it's two different films. That's because the first part is creepy, suspenseful, frightening and weird, the kind of thing that'll make you check all your closets and under your bed when you get home. It recycles all the best parts of Poltergeist and Paranormal Activity and energizes them with fresh dread and visuals you'll carry around in your head for a while. And then the the whole thing comes to a halt while a character explains what's going on. After that, it still has a couple of loud "gotcha" moments in its black box, but overall contains the same quantity of fear and panic as It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
How You'll Know When It's About To Unravel And Shrug Off Its Commitment To Actually Scaring You: When the two scruffy, bickering, deadpan, identically-dressed paranormal investigation-bros show up. Suddenly, it's like the filmmakers decided they wanted to make a mumblecore comedy instead. If you want, you could walk out then and not come back, preserving the mystery and the fright of it all. So keep that in mind, horror directors and screenwriters: nothing kills terror better than a pair of indie-rock-Mormon-missionary-looking ghostbusters.
Casting Ouch: I don't begrudge Barbara Hershey getting work, but she's way too famous for her small, pivotal role. You find yourself thinking, "Well, she's Barbara Hershey, so every single seemingly innocuous thing she says must be important or she wouldn't be saying it and then exiting the scene." And you would be right.
Don't Look In The Basement: Because that's probably where the creative team is storing their plans for Insidiouser and umpteen more sequels. It's not from the guys behind Paranormal and Saw for nothing.