The masterminds behind Paranormal Activity and Saw have created this jumpy and ludicrous thriller. Rating:

The masterminds behind the first Saw and Paranormal Activity join forces on Insidious for a bump-in-the-night shocker, which plays out in such a high, trilling key of baroque anxiety it’s both jumpy and ludicrous.

Laughter in horror movies is often a good sign they’re doing something right, but this goes beyond even Sam Raimi’s brazen Drag Me to Hell as an elaborate wind-up, and reaches a tipping point where the guffaws take over from genuine scares.

Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne and their three children move into a house that’s mainly haunted by collective memories of The Amityville Horror: stairs creak, something rustles in the attic, and the oldest son trips and winds up in a coma. This first part is dominated by Byrne, whose passive-aggressive acting style can be royally irritating but gets this film to the right, high-strung place, somewhat at her expense. Forget exorcisms: her singer-songwriter efforts at the piano would drive most susceptible phantoms quailing back to another dimension. Perhaps these ones are hearing-impaired.

Bothered by spectral stalkers and the bloody handprints that keep showing up on bedsheets, they move home, but it’s not enough. These ghouls have an amusing vaudevillian quality: there’s an old lady in a veil, Shining-style twins, and a wizened doll-man who plays Tiptoe Through the Tulips on Byrne’s LP, and takes a turn around the living room.


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