It's not the house that's haunted. Its your son. BRRRRROOOOOOOOOOOOOOAW.
It's funny how time changes things isn't it. As far as I'm concerned, Halloween and Saw are guilty of the same crime. Both were starkly original films that introduced a fresh new take on the horror genre that people instantly responded to. Both too, spawned legions of imitators that came thick and fast and represented the worst in opportunistic and brain-dead film-making. No-one shot the messenger with Halloween, its still revered as a masterpiece to this day. Saw meanwhile, is beginning to take some shit for being the birth-mother to torture porn, that critically reviled sub-genre that is just about going away. But I'll have to stand up for Saw, in spite of its 800 sequels, because its a taut, surprising puzzle-box of a movie, much more interested in taking its audience on a jounrey than just enjoying cutting limbs of people. A large part of that was down to James Wan's sense of pacing, which was key to making that film work.
But his career hasn't really gone to plan since, I was about the only guy on the face of the earth to like Death Sentence, Dead Silence was pretty embarrassing and now comes Insidious, which is both a great showcase for Wan's ability to put together a smooth, effective scare machine and also his stagnation into genre predictability. For Insidious probably thinks itself a subversion of the haunted house genre, but in a post Paranormal Activity world, Wan's technical shazam isn't quite enough to make you forget the genericism that's almost in the films bones. It doesn't have an original thought in its head, most notable when Wan resorts to the last reel twist ending thing he does every time, each with diminishing results. Having said that, this film did some good work in casting Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, both of whom do their best to give this shit a centre. Wilson in particular does well with the static dialogue, and I guess Wan stages a quite effective final showdown, even if he owes George Lucas royalties for putting Darth Maul in his movie.
The haunted house film, I think more then any other sub-genre of horror, does its best work when everything is grounded, when everything feels real. And perhaps because Wan can't resist shooting for the fences and making the thing into a carnival, it can never be truly frightening, only make you jump when something comes out from around the corner. But you can brush it off your shoulder almost the minute you leave, and the mark of a great, terrifying horror film is the effect it has on you after you leave, if it gets under your skin or not. And to be honest this film just doesn't. It has its attributes, and with another decent script Wan could make another great horror film, but this just simply isn't it.