Film Studies Movie Analysis – Insidious Essay
Insidious “Insidious” is a 2010 horror movie centralizing around the lives of protagonists Renai (Rose Byrne) and her husband Josh (Patrick Wilson). The movie mainly focuses on the supernatural activity going on within the house, and it is later revealed that the cause of the hauntings is due to demons attempting to take over the body of their unconscious son, Dalton (Ty Simpkins).
The scene I have chosen to use from “Insidious”is the scene in which Renai sees and peruses a demon resembling a small Victorian child in her house.
The extract begins 38:07 into the film and ends at 41:41. I have chosen to focus on the camerawork and sound in this particular scene as I believe they are both used to an excellent standard to create the feeling of tension and claustrophobia in the audience that this scene relies upon to create the perfect atmosphere for the rather major “jump scare” at the end of the scene.
This also helps towards the overall tension and claustrophobic atmosphere that the movie creates as a whole, allowing the audience to not only be truly immersed in the story, but also to feel on edge throughout, empathising with the protagonist’s situation as they are trapped, alone and confused in a hostile environment that they cannot fully comprehend, nicely mirroring the audience’s confusion as to why the “hauntings” in the house are occurring.
All of this is achieved by the superb sound and camerawork used throughout the scene. The scene begins with the movies protagonist, Renai, cleaning her son’s room and gathering trash to take to the bin outside her house.
While she is doing this, slow and relaxing instrumental music plays in the background from a nearby record player, given this part of the scene a sense of peace and serenity that is contrasted by the camera slowly following Renai very closely, also given the feeling that something is watching her and is intruding in the house, and as this is a horror movie, the audience will expect that this means the peace and serenity that the music creates will soon be shattered by the intrusion of a demon, or some other force.
After collecting the trash in the bag, Renai is tracked by the camera from inside the house while she goes outside to the bin, suggesting there is in fact something inside the house, but while walking there, the calming music playing on the record player begins to skip and scratch, shattering the serenity, and is replaced by Tiny Tim’s “Tiptoe through the Tulips”. Renai, however, does not have much of a visual reaction to this strange and unnatural change in the music, until she turns after putting the trash bag in the bin to see a small child dressed in Victorian Era clothing, dancing in front of the record player.
The camera moves towards Renai quickly as she turns around, letting the audience realise that something is defiantly not right within the house. We then see the boy via a P. O. V shot from Renai’s perspective and then the camera returns to inside the house to film Renai’s reaction, while continuing to move closer to her. Another brief P. O. V shot shows Renai moving back towards the door of her house, momentarily losing sight of the boy while she walks. When the camera returns to a window, we see that the boy is now gone.
The speed at which this is done makes the audience quickly reassured that this is not a human child, as no human child could appear and disappear that quickly. The song the child plays is still playing in the background however, making the audience very aware that the child is not truly gone, but is just hiding from Renai. A fixed camera is positioned behind Renai as she looks through the window, and stays in that position while showing us Renai running back to the door and entering the house.
As Renai approaches the spot where the child was standing, the record player stops, and momentarily leaves the audience with no sound other than the sound of Renai pacing. The camera also slowly approaches the character, giving the impression that whatever it was that was in the house is still close, and getting closer. Suddenly, the kitchen door closes, and the sound of the hinges squeaking is amplified to make it clear that Renai could hear the noise.
As she goes to investigate the now closed door, the “child” from before is seen running past the spot where Renai was standing only moments ago, giggling at Renai, most likely as she fell for his juvenile prank. The “child” runs down the hallway and is standing at the end of it when we next see him, again through a P. O. V shot from Renai’s perspective. He quickly runs in to the room beside him when Renai sees him, and beginning to giggle again.
The heightened sound of the “child’s” laughter emphasises that this demon has no intention of hurting Renai, but, in my opinion, simply sees her as an amusing aside and that he simply wants to play with her, regardless of the intruding and terrifying way he does so. We next see Renai slowly going down the hallway to follow the child. This is done with a tracking shot, and then a P. O. V shot of her looking down the hallway, showing her hesitance to approach the room with the sound of her footsteps being heightened.
Upon reaching the room however, we see her look around the room with no sign of the “child’s” presence. Renai quickly closes the door behind her, presumably for fear of the child appearing behind her, but as we see her do this, the camera then pans across to a shot of a rocking horse that is now rocking back and forth, but the occupant of the rocking horse is concealed by the other door. The sound of the horse creaking as it rocks is heightened to allow the audience, mainly to provide extra sound to the scene that would otherwise be almost devoid of sound.
Renai goes to investigate the rocking, and upon closing the door partly, we see that the horse has no-one on it. After Renai stops the horse from rocking, the camera quickly moves to the ground showing Renai, the now stopped horse, and the door Renai had previously close behind her. The door then suddenly swings open, but there is nobody at the door who could have opened it. When she goes outside of the room back into the hallway, she notices the door of her son’s bedroom is open.
She then goes into the room where her son is lying and looks around the room. We see through a P. O. V shot that the room has no sign of the “child’s” presence. The sound of her son’s heart monitor can be heard while she looks around the room. But as Renai looks at her son’s cabinet, she notices a pair of shoes poking out from the curtain at the bottom. Assuming that the shoes are being worn by the “child” she is looking for, she approaches slowly, grabbing a hockey stick to use to open the curtain to reveal the child.
While approaching the cabinet, there is a loud, high pitched sound heard that increases in volume the closer she gets to the cabinet to increase the tension of the situation. Upon opening the curtain with the stick, it is revealed that the shoes aren’t being worn by anyone, and are only poking out of the curtain. At this point the sound stops with a very loud and high pitched noise. The anti-climactic ending to this section leaves the audience feeling relieved that the child is not there.
However, this relief is only momentary as immediately after we see that the bottom of the cabinet is empty, the “child” bursts out of the top part and giggles at the shocked Renai. Upon the “child’s” emergence from the top of the cabinet, a loud thud is heard while the cabinet’s doors swing open. The child then runs out of the room, continuing his laughter and leaving Renai to crouch down beside her son’s bed and cry as a result of the psychological torment she has experienced over the past few minutes at the hands of the demonic child.
The sound and camerawork used in this scene is used to great effect here and does a fantastic job of creating tension to prepare you throughout the scene for a scare that would, without a doubt, leave many members of the audience jumping from their seats in terror. The camera stays close to Renai through the scene and sometimes providing us with P. O. V shots from her perspective, allowing us to empathise with her in this scene and, most importantly, make it seem like a problem that the audience cares about.
While watching this scene, I never felt the traditional separation between character and audience that most horror films unfortunately have. I felt genuinely compelled to watch the scene, hoping that the “child” would just go away, or that it would leave Renai’s son alone at least. In closing, the tense atmosphere the sound creates and the intimate closeness to the character that the camerawork provides makes the scene incredibly effective at drawing in the audience and maintaining our focus throughout the scene all culminating in a terrifying final scare that will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression upon the audience.