The Insidious franchise, while a bit convoluted with its zig-zagging timeline, is one of the more inventive of the last decade. This shouldn't surprise anyone since director co-creator James Wan started the Saw franchise, a modern horror classic followed by appalling sequels in the grand tradition of Halloween and Hellraiser. Insidious never meant to subvert expectations, but it did do a consistent job of blending nuanced psychological horror with sudden, erratic jump-scares. The end result? One of the most stressful film series you'll ever watch.
The first film deals primarily with the Lamberts and their son, who's been visited by a malevolent demon who wants to possess his body while he lies in a coma. It introduces the character of Elise Rainier, a parapsychologist with a unique gift to communicate with the dead. It's really her story, and the people she helps, which we follow throughout the four films, weaving through a timeline that hops from the 50s, to the 80s, to modern-day. Leave the lights on, because here are the 10 scariest moments of the Insidious franchise.
10 THE DEMON BEHIND JOSH IN DAYLIGHT
Recently, new horror filmmaker on the scene Ari Aster made Midsommar, showing the terror that could be unleashed in broad daylight. John Wan had already demonstrated this to us in the first Insidious film, when Josh, his mother Lorraine, and his wife were gathered around the dining room table discussing what to do about their son Dalton.
Lorraine was explaining that she'd had a lucid dream, and was able to see a demon with a black body and red face hovering over Dalton while he was in a coma. The camera pans back and forth between Josh and his mother, until in one sudden frame the demon itself appears right next to Josh's head and he doesn't even know it.
9 THE SMILING FAMILY IN THE FURTHER
One of the most thrilling sequences in Insidious involves Josh participating in astral projection to go after his son. He gets hypnotized until he falls into a deep sleep, and then travels to The Further, the place beyond the land of the living, where demonic spirits wait to try to possess a human vessel.
He makes his way through a version of his old house, and in each room, encounters a grisly scene. In one, a young teenager loads a shotgun and blows her family away, only to have all of them all appear behind Josh wearing disturbing grins.
8 WHEN OLD MAN PARKER TRIED TO GRAB YOUNG JOSH
Back when Josh's mom Lorraine worked at Our Lady of Angels hospital, she frequently found herself in the ICU ward. There, she attended an elderly man named Parker Crane, who had been admitted for trying to castrate himself. As he was lying seemingly comatose in his hospital bed, Josh steps closer to his bedside and he suddenly jerks awake.
He tries to pull on Josh's arm, but Josh's mother pulls him away while the nurses struggle to get Parker subdued. The next day, Lorraine rides down the elevator with Parker, who seems to be no longer bedridden. It's only after she talks with the nurse at the front desk that she finds out Parker actually jumped to his death the prior morning.
7 WHEN MRS. PARKER SLAPS RENAI
Poor Renai, constantly plagued by spirits while she's left at home to mind her children. If it's not the baby monitor always going off broadcasting strange voices, it's mysterious figures wandering around her house. None were as terrifying as Mrs. Parker, who she encountered in Insidious: Chapter 2.
While trying to protect her infant daughter Kelly, she encounters Mrs. Crane, a vengeful spirit who always wanted a baby girl, and made her son dress up like one to appease her fantasy. She screams and hurls Renai across the room in a fit of howling rage.
6 QUINN GETTING HIT BY THE CAR
One of the ways in which the Insidious series of movies sidesteps typical horror movie tropes is by planting jump scares at the exact moment you'd least expect them to happen. The series takes the art form to a whole new level, by having them occur when absolutely nothing eerie is even going on in the frame.
Take, for example, the scene when Quinn gets struck by the car in Insidious: Chapter 3. It comes completely out of nowhere. One minute, she's gabbing away with her best friend, and the next, our main heroine is paralyzed from the waist down. The scene proved once again, the scariest things aren't always demons, ghosts, and ghouls from the other side.
5 THE MAN WHO CAN'T BREATHE ATTACKING QUINN
What's more horrible than being hit by a car? Being traumatized by vengeful spirits while you try to recuperate. After her horrible accident, Quinn is released from the hospital and sent home to recover. Both of her legs are horribly broken and are in full casts to help them heal.
Night after night, Quinn gets repeatedly traumatized by bad dreams, odd noises, and the feeling as though someone is watching her. It all comes to a head when The Man Who Can't Breathe makes his presence finally known, attacking her in her bed and throwing her around her room while she's utterly helpless.
4 QUINN ALMOST GOING OVER THE LEDGE
After Quinn is horribly attacked by The Man Who Can't Breathe, her father bursts into her room after hearing her screams. They both see the footsteps of the man outlined in tar leading from her room, and to another section of the building.
An open window quickly reveals to her father that the intruder lept to his death, acknowledging the body. When Quinn leans over to see for herself, The Man Who Can't Breathe is directly in front of her, and nearly pulls her over the window ledge to her death.
3 THE DEMON IN ELISE'S READING ROOM
By Insidious Chapter: 3, we learn that Elise has sworn off doing readings, communicating with the dead, and anything related to the further. But Quinn changes her mind, because she's a girl that's imperiled by a spirit that crossed over when she tried to contact her dead mother on her own.
Since this movie takes place prior to Elise's dealings with the Lamberts, she's more cautious, and hasn't been down in her reading room for some time after the suicide of her husband. Nevertheless, to help Quinn, she ventures down into the dark, and the entire sequence is brimming with terror, right up the point where she encounters something malevolent in one of the films' many jump scares.
2 KEYFACE IN THE SUITCASE
Insidious: The Last Key revealed more about the origins of Elise Rainier's special gift, as well as her family life during childhood. When she released an entity in her house, it killed her mother and, not wishing to continue to live life under the roof of her abusive father, she ran away at sixteen and never looked back.
When she's called to her family house decades later, she learns a terrible secret; her father was responsible for the deaths of several young women in the area. He kept suitcases containing their heads as trophies down in the basement. While making this gruesome discovery, Elise also has a run-in with the Keyface Demon, in one of the biggest jump scares of the film.
1 MELISSA BEING TAKEN BY KEYFACE
While it's never a good idea to wander off in a horror film all by yourself, it's really not a good idea in the Insidious franchise. In The Last Key, Melissa, one of Elise Rainier's nieces, decides to investigate the basement of Elise's family home.
She has an unfortunate run-in with Keyface, and during the entire time Elise, her sister Imogen, and others are looking for her, the demon is using the different keys on his fingers to "lock" her vocal chords and then finally, twist her insides so that she goes into a coma and thus can enter the further.