Insidious (2010) Explained

An Average Movie-Goer’s Review

Spoilers! If you don’t want spoilers – check out the Spoiler-Free post

Insidious Explained poster

I love horror movies and if I’m going to watch them anyway, why not write an entertaining/funny review from the POV of an average movie-goer and not a professional critic.

Today we’re looking at James Waan’s 2010 Insidious

After a boy falls into a coma, his family must prevent a demon and other tortured spirits from trapping his soul and possessing his body.

Related Article: Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013) Explained

Quick Review:

If you had to rate this movie by the severity of demons, with the stronger the demon the better, crossroad demons being weak, and Abaddon being strongest then this movie is an Azazel. Some of you will understand.

Is Insidious Scary?

Insidious can get pretty scary at times mainly coming from a few jump scares which means the scares only last a few seconds. You will look behind you but only once or twice. The movie’s setting doesn’t build tension or suspense except for a few key moments, mainly the final 20 minutes, but it’s done well.

Insidious (2010) Full Plot Summary:

The movie opens with a child sleeping. We appear to be in first person view watching him sleep and then wandering through his home until we come upon an older woman in a black veil, the scene fades into the title screen, and then the opening credits.

It’s not immediately clear who that child was or what it has to do with the movie until much, much later so it’s more like a false start.

The movie opens with Renai (played by Rose Byrne) awoken by her snoring husband Josh (played by Patrick Wilson). She heads downstairs and we see that the family has just moved into a new house.

While unpacking, she reminisces on old photos when her son Dalton (played by Ty Simpkins), who couldn’t sleep, joins her. He eventually asks to see old photos of his dad but Renai notes they don’t have any. DUN DUN DUN…

Ty Simpkins and Rose Byrne as Dalton and Renai in 2010's Insidious
“No secrets, he was just a really ugly child.”

The family includes two other children, another boy, and a baby girl, but the movie forgets about them halfway through so we’ll do the same. Renai is a songwriter and Josh is a teacher/professor? I don’t know, doesn’t really matter.

Later in the day while Renai is home alone with the baby, she hears some sounds coming from the attic, she investigates and almost falls on a broken ladder she uses to reach the lightbulb. After assuming the noise came from the furnace she leaves.

That night while Dalton is playing in front of the staircase, the door to the attic creaks open drawing his attention. He goes up into the attic because at that age kids don’t fear attics yet (teach your kids to fear attics!), he tries to climb the ladder and falls on the step that broke earlier.

After slamming his head, he gets up and hears something coming from the corner of the attic and begins to scream. I bet it was the newly found fear of attics.

Josh and Renai come running, they make sure Dalton hasn’t broken anything, and take him to his room. There’s a nice moment between Renai and Josh as they get ready for bed but we then transition to Dalton in bed sleeping with the trees outside waving ominously.

The next morning Josh attempts to wake Dalton up for school but he’s either pretending in order to avoid school or in some kind of coma. At the hospital, it’s revealed it’s been a few days and a doctor explains he seems perfectly normal; no brain trauma or infection. He simply just won’t wake up, stating he’s never seen anything like it.

“Maybe he just really hates school?”

Three months later, Dalton is still in his fake coma and is now at home taken care of by Renai. While attempting to play the piano, she begins to hear whispering and laughing coming from the baby monitor. The whispering becomes more distinct with a man’s voice clearly saying and repeating “I want it now.” before erupting into a large roar.

Renai runs up the stairs into the baby’s room but finds it empty except for the crying baby. Later that night, Renai is putting the other kid to bed when she finds an award given to him that day that he didn’t tell anyone about. He tells her he’s scared of Dalton because he doesn’t like it when he walks around at night.

This is one of my only gripes with this movie, it suffers from what I like to call, Secrets for Suspense Syndrome or SfSS for short. The other kid didn’t feel like it was important to tell his parents about the night walking his coma-ridden brother has been doing!

That same night Renai tells Josh about the sounds she heard from the monitor when someone bangs on the front door. Josh heads downstairs but doesn’t find anyone at the door. Meanwhile, Renai heads to the baby’s rooms and sees a man behind the baby’s crib.

“You’re about to scream aren’t you?”

Josh runs up but the man has vanished. He then goes downstairs to find the front door open with the security alarm going off. Patrolling the home, he doesn’t find anyone but the security alarm goes off again with the front door wide open yet again.

After this Josh begins to make excuses to avoid coming home early. After one of his classes, he also has memories of the child in the beginning of the movie, it’s later revealed it’s him as a child watching himself, so it’s not weird. But, he appears to not have any memories of this so dun, dun, dun?

Sometime later, Renai is adjusting Dalton’s bed sheets when she finds a red handprint right by his foot.

Damn, these were new sheets too.

Secrets for Suspense Syndrome strikes again when that night Josh arrives home to a waiting Renai outside, sitting on the steps. Despite having the bedsheets with the hand print with her, which I attest is the more important thing, they instead argue about him coming home late. She throws the sheets at him at the end of the argument, he sees the handprint, and then… they don’t talk about it?

That night while Josh is sleeping on the couch, Renai wakes from a nightmare and hears someone pacing outside of her room on the balcony. The man suddenly appears in the room and attempts to grab Renai.

Josh wakes up from her screaming and runs up finding her cowering in the corner but the ghost has vanished.

“Wait, have you heard of our lord Jesus Christ?”

Despite not seeing the ghost, Josh believes her and agrees to move to a new house. Incredibly smart decision by the couple. But as we’ve seen so many times that means a dumb decision is coming up soon.

After an undetermined amount of time has passed, the family has now moved and are unpacking in a new home. We’re also introduced to Josh’s mother, Lorraine (played by Barbara Hershey) who is helping.

A little while later, Renai is alone in the house cleaning and doesn’t see a hiding ghost child. When she steps outside she finally sees him from the window dancing to some music. She runs in to presumably beat the shit out of the child intruder but he disappears. He then runs past her and she gives chase down to Dalton’s room where it scares her after coming out of a dresser.

Later Josh comes home and is greeted by Renai, a priest, and his mom. After the priest leaves Renai tells Josh about the ghost boy. Lorraine explains she had a dream the night before where she was in the home and saw a figure in Dalton’s room who stated he wanted Dalton.

Then this piece of shit pops up:

the red faced demon and Patrick Wilson in 2010's Insidious

After Lorraine understandably freaks the fuck out, the group hear loud bangs coming from Dalton’s room. They run down, struggling to open the door and when they finally break in, Dalton is lying in the middle of the room with the entire room in disarray, looking as if a tornado came through.

Lorraine then says she knows someone who can help, why she didn’t open with this? SfSS.

We’re next introduced to Specs and Tucker (played by Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson) who work for Lorraine’s contact, Elise. Specs and Tucker were sent by Elise to do some comedic relief preliminary tests to ensure there is actually a reason for Elise to go to the house.

Specs and Tucker (played by Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson)  in 2010's Insidious
“Where did you even get that hot pocket?”

They both pull out some homemade tools for ghost hunting and, fairly quickly, Tucker gets the proof they need.

Twin ghost girls in 2010's Insidious
“Come and play with us.”

With this, Elise is called in and she immediately senses the home is inhabiting several spirits. She walks through, enters Dalton’s room, and has Specs draw what she describes, which is the same red-faced demon thing Lorraine saw earlier.

Elise tells them Dalton isn’t in a coma and the house isn’t haunted; Dalton himself is haunted, DUN DUN DUN! Had he not fallen from the ladder, this would still be happening because he has the ability to astral project into a place called the Further, where tortured souls of the dead live.

Unfortunately, Dalton has strayed too far from his body and is now lost, leaving his physical body weaker and more susceptible to possession over time. The ghosts that have appeared in their homes are aware Dalton’s body is up for grabs and that’s why they’ve been appearing. Some are harmless but others have a “more insidious agenda” like the red-faced demon.

Josh gets upset, having had enough of the ghost talk, telling Renai he is done entertaining all of it. He makes it clear he doesn’t believe in any of it and believes this is a scam for money. Elise and her team then leave the house wishing them luck.

Later Josh is in Dalton’s room talking to him, asking him for a sign when a drawing falls behind him. He realizes all the drawings in the room are proof of what Elise and Lorraine have seen.

The terrific acting in this scene saves what should really be considered a ridiculous reveal. The drawings Josh sees hanging up on Dalton’s board include one where Dalton is sleeping and wrote, “Last night I watched myself sleep”, and at least two of the freaking RED-FACED DEMON!

Because of these drawings, Josh agrees to have Elise come back.

the drawings are the key!
“I should pay more attention to my kid’s drawing…”

Elise returns with her team and set up a séance table to reach out to Dalton. She connects a gas mask apparatus that connects to headphones worn by Specs who transcribes everything he hears.

At first, Dalton answers telling them he is hiding from the red-faced demon but he’s spotted and continuously repeats “Help me”. The red-faced demon then speaks to Elise threatening her. Seconds later he takes control of Dalton’s body, able to slam his hand down on the table with enough force that it throws the group across the room.

The tortured souls from the Further start invading the room attacking the group, while Elise struggles to exorcise the demon from Dalton.

After successfully exorcising the demon, she elects to reveal some truth in another example of SfSS. Lorraine arrives and they reveal Josh, as a child, was also able to travel into the Further and was targeted by the spirit of an older woman in a black veil.

At first, Lorraine didn’t believe when Josh complained about the ghosts but eventually, the spirit started appearing in pictures showing she was getting closer and closer to taking over his body.

After calling Elise, they both decided the best way to save Josh was to suppress the memories and his ability to astral project.

“You mean that wasn’t grandma this whole time?”

This raises many questions:

  • Why didn’t Lorraine tell them this instead of the dream when Dalton’s life is at stake?
  • Why didn’t either Elise or Lorraine tell Josh about any of this when the family moved into the new house and saw ghosts?
  • Why send Specs and Tucker fully knowing they were going to investigate the home of Josh who was a previously confirmed case of ghosts?
  • Why didn’t Elise say anything when Josh flipped out calling them scam artists while fully knowing the dangers of the Further?

Because suspense! Also, it’s best not to think about it and enjoy the movie since it doesn’t actually ruin the movie.

The plan now is to send Josh into the Further to locate and save Dalton which he immediately agrees to. Elise first puts him in a trance and it takes only a few moments for him to enter the Further.

Now in the land of tortured souls, Josh first runs into the child version of himself who points him to the house from the beginning of the movie.

The house in the further
You couldn’t wander into the place of Sunlight and Happy Souls?

Terrifyingly the house is now full of those tortured souls we’ve been talking so much about. All of them appear to ignore Josh entering the home until it’s time for some very effective jump scares.

After traversing the house (see: running from ghosts) the attic door opens leading Josh to find a red door from Dalton’s drawing. Here, the same ghost who attacked Renai earlier attacks Josh and is beating the living shit out of him. Elise eggs Josh to fight back revealing that Josh is stronger because he is alive, which I feel is some pretty important information that Elise should have told everyone earlier. SfSS!

Josh gains the upper hand, advances to the red door, and finds Dalton chained up crying. He is able to free Dalton but doing so has alerted the red-faced demon who was busy sharpening his claws. They’re able to escape the demon and the house but now must find their way back to their bodies.

Renai starts calling out to Josh to follow her voice and although this works, the tortured souls in the Further also hear her voice allowing them to start entering the home.

While the group in the physical realm are surrounded by the invading ghosts, Josh and Dalton make it to the home in the Further but are separated. They both have to avoid their spirit stalkers, Dalton with the Red-Faced Demon and Josh with the old woman in the black veil.

With Renai still calling out to Josh, the two are able to get back to their bodies and wake up closing the link to the Further, causing the spirits to disappear. The group celebrates their victory and the movie ends with a happy ending.

“Didn’t we have two more kids?”

Wait, no it doesn’t. Turns out Josh didn’t exactly escape the old woman in the black veil. Suspecting something, Elise takes Josh’s picture causing the possessed Josh to attack and strangle her to death. Renai enters the room seeing Elise’s body but a missing Josh.

Calling out to him, she finds the camera and sees the picture Elise took prior to her death revealing the lady in the black veil.

The movie ends with Josh appearing behind Renai saying “I’m right here.” (sequel baiting!)


Insidious can best be described as a movie about a family with some horror as opposed to a horror movie about a family. Overall the movie is great but does suffer from “Secrets for Suspense Syndrome” yet the movie is written well enough that it doesn’t stick out too much. Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne’s acting is top notch which makes the family scenes work really well.

Halfway through the movie, it invites a more fantasy premise but James Waan is able to still create a horrifying atmosphere and deliver great scares.

Definitely recommend it as a spooky time movie!


Stuff to Ignore

Rotten Tomatoes – 66%

Metacritic – 52

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