Insidious topped my list of favorite films from 2011. This old school shocker from writer/actor Leigh Wannell and director James Wan delivered some legit scares — the yapping teen girls in my audience shut up and started screaming early on — and the film did not need a large budget and loads of digital effects to be supremely scary. It was a great homage to Poltergeist that offered original moments of its own, not to mention some cheeky humor with the paranormal investigators that popped up halfway through (one of them played by Wannell). Another reason why it worked so well is that audience expectations were not really high because, while it had a buzz, it was not part of a franchise and did not have a huge ad campaign behind it. It grew through good, old-fashioned word-of-mouth and deservedly so.
Now, according to the Hollywood Reporter, there is talk of a sequel in the works. That might not be such a great idea. Sequels are always a dicey affair, and while some franchises like Hellraiser and SAW have had their moments in follow-up form, the law of diminished returns have always applied. But, as well all know, money talks. Insidious made nearly $100 million globally (not including video sales and TV rights) on a shoestring budget of $1.5 million, reportedly making it the most profitable film of 2011. Given that Rose Byrne is a rising star through movies like Bridesmaids and X-Men: First Class, and that the movie (SPOILER ALERT) had a grim ending that opened the door for a sequel, and the idea was inevitable. The sequel is reportedly scheduled to go into production this year, with a 2013 release planned.
In a recent press statement, Wannell said, “Insidious was the most fun project I’ve ever worked on. From start to finish it was an absolute joy — from the writing of the screenplay, all the way to the first screening of the film at the Toronto Film Festival. I believe that James Wan and I achieved what we set out to do — create a horror film for horror fans. Both of us feel that we can mine more terror from the world we created and know that if we assemble every member of the original team, we will have an amazing continuation of the story for fans of the first film.”
But perhaps would it not be better to come up with another original story and not continue this one? I liked the way the first film ended with a supernatural cliffhanger that made you cringe at the thought of what might come next. That said, director Wan is currently prepping The Conjuring, starring Vera Farmiga and Insidious co-star Patrick Wilson for New Line, so he’s clearly not resting on his laurels.
I like to keep an open mind about things, and there are admittedly many horror sequels I enjoy, including Howling V: The Rebirth. (Stop laughing.) But at a time when we are experiencing a dearth of truly good, original horror films on a mainstream level, I hope the team of Wan and Wannell conjure up another original scary story soon. Those are the ones that tend to stick with you, like a pesky ghost that won’t stop haunting you.