Insidious Chapter 2
Probability was high that, after the success of James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s first outing of insidiousness, a follow-up would be in order. The biggest problem with "Insidious: Chapter 2," though, is that it comes right on the heels of Wan’s summer effort, "The Conjuring," which was his best and more frightening horror film yet.
Here, Whannell crafts a script that isn’t as tight as the first film, nor is it scary, but it does link both installments together in clever and inventive ways. It just doesn’t totally add up to a whole lotta’ fright.
The film opens the day after the events of the first film. Parapsychologist Elise (Lyn Shaye) is dead by strangulation, and Josh and Rose Lambert (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne respectively) are trying to put a handle on what just happened. If you recall, their youngest son was in a purgatory-type alternate dimension called The Further, and Josh had to go inside of it to rescue him. Now that he’s out, and his son is safe, we start to notice that something isn’t quite right with dear old dad.
The family moves in with Josh’s mom Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) and they think their hauntings are behind them, but alas, things start moving around, pianos start playing by themselves, and spooky ghosts keep popping up to scare everyone. It’s pretty standard stuff. But interspersed throughout this tale of "what’s wrong with Papa?" is a flashback story that reveals the childhood of Josh and how he is the link to what is happening. This is by far the most fascinating aspect of "Insidious: Chapter Two." Even when things get rote and there’s a ’been there, seen’ that aspect to it, once the twists of the story start coming, it becomes a much more interesting film.
The issue is the first half of the movie, which is sporadically interesting, but it’s so much of what we’ve seen from Wan before it teeters on boring. Wan and Whannell borrow from every horror movie they know ("Poltergeist" and "The Shining" being the most glaring examples), and Wan amps up his aesthetic, making this sequel about as subtle as an elephant in a cymbal factory. Loud noises. Grating music. Actors with heavy makeup spook around as the ghosts, popping out and slapping people, then leaving as suddenly as they appeared. It’s all a bit silly, and not the least bit scary. In fact, Wan and Whannell confess they wanted to make more of a domestic thriller than a horror movie, but this alteration isn’t fully formed. When the mythology begins to build and the links between films are explored, then the script really takes off.
The cast is fine, but because the film piles on so much silliness, it’s a testament to Rose Byrne, Patrick Wilson, and Barbara Hershey that we are able to take it seriously enough that we aren’t laughing it off the screen. I do think they occasionally play it for giggles, but they still do a decent job of making you care. It’s always nice to see Lin Shaye, and she returns in two interesting ways here. They even use her voice in a flashback sequence dubbing the actress who plays her "younger self."
The locations are terrific, but when you’ve seen one creepy Victorian house you’ve kind of seen them all. So, after a while it’s hard to tell apart the three houses that they use. James Wan does not have a subtle hand, and his scares and what he thinks are scary elements, oftentimes are just silly. The use of a child’s toy is particularly creepy, but the constant use of actors in bad makeup acting as specters borders on annoying.
Again, it’s not terrible, and the interplay between the two films is fun, so for that reason people should make the time to check it out. Whether it’s worth spending a night at the theatre is anyone’s guess. It’ll probably just as effective while sitting on your couch drinking beer and eating homemade popcorn.