Movie Review- Insidious: Chapter 2

A family begins to notice strange occurrences throughout their house. At first the happenings are innocent, like furniture moving around or books getting knocked off of shelves, but soon the phenomena becomes more and more threatening. The danger culminates into one of the family’s children being dragged into another world with the spirits of the dead. The child’s parents enlist the help of a paranormal investigation team, lead by a wise elderly woman. They are told the dead are drawn to the full-of-life spirit of the child and that one of the parents has to communicate across the threshold between life and death to bring their loved one back.

The current generation know this as the plot to 2011’s “Insidious.” Those who grew up in the 80’s or before know this movie as “Poltergeist” (1982).

When it comes to the first Insidious, director James Wan (“Saw,” “The Conjuring”) is a story plagiarist. Ripping off of another movie is an unforgivable sin when the director refuses to acknowledge his/her inspiration and tries to pass the creation as a completely original concept, although Wan did bring some atmosphere, style and attention to detail that was entirely his own. Two years later, Wan has returned to the director’s chair to delve deeper into the mythology he, um, “created.” Sadly, he manages to finally set up some interesting and original ideas, but sloppy writing, unimpressive acting, and cheap scares drag Insidious: Chapter two into the lukewarm pool of mediocre horror sequels.

We open in a flashback 25 years before the initial installment, where it is decided that Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) should be hypnotized into forgetting how to project his spirit into ‘The Further’ (where the dead exist), so as to escape the ghost of an elderly woman who has been following Josh around. We then jump to present day, shortly after the events of the first movie. The Lambert family is moving into the house of Josh’s mother (Barbara Hershey), trying to forget the horrors they encountered in their previous two households. Now that their son (Ty Simpkins) has been purged of the spirit that possessed him, they all try to return to their normal lives. That is until Renai Lambert (Rose Byrne) begins to encounter more bizarre happenings throughout the house, including a woman clad in a white gown lurking throughout the house. With the help of the surviving paranormal investigators from the first film (Leigh Whannel and Angus Sampson), a medium who can speak to the dead by rolling dice (Steve Coulter), and the spirit of the paranormal investigation team leader who was killed in the first film (Lin Shaye), the Lambert family must discover where the veiled old woman came from and how to defeat this evil once an for all.

I will say that James Wan does a good job making the story naturally progress from the last one, truly justifying the Chapter 2 subtitle. The movie does not stand on its own and leans heavily on its predecessor for much of the setup and character progression. Adding to that some plot twists that tie back to the events of the initial movie in a surprisingly original way, this “part 2” makes itself more than just a retread of what happened before.

Unfortunately, I can’t help but wonder just how much control Wan had. On the one hand, as I stated above, the story actually feels like a legitimate continuation of the series, but on the other hand, almost every scene feels like a cheap exploitation of the moments that Insidious was remembered for. What was once a series of genuinely intense and atmospheric moments is now just a lot of stretched-out build up for the next predictable jump scare. The two characters that brought in small bits of comic relief (without relieving the tension too much) are now set up for crowd-pleasing goof up moments that totally kill the mood of the situation they are in. Elise, the uncertain-but-strong leader of the paranormal investigation group, is now viewed as a saint-like angel with all the answers. Every time I see indulgences like these, I couldn’t help but think of a Film District executive telling Wan about audience response statistics and how he needed to shape his movie based on percentages, rather than creative intuition. It’s a common practice for this to happen when studios try to squeeze every bit of box office potential from a horror franchise, and Wan wasn’t able to escape this symptom.

The cast ranges from average to completely unconvincing. Barbara Hershey is the only actor who seems to bring any semblance of likeability to her role, but otherwise, most of the dialogue is the result of line-reading and quick facial reactions. Whannel and Sampson, playing the two paranormal investigators, are the only two others that seem to bring any sense of personality into the movie with their chuckle-worthy reaction shots while surrounded by almost solid dull exposition. There really is nothing else the cast has to offer, as most resort to phoned in line memorizing.

Like the vast majority of horror sequels, Insidious: Chapter two does little to justify its existence. Although some of the story is original (particularly some of the twists near the end), it’s mostly a collage of tired-out horror tropes we have all seen before. With “Insidious”: Chapter three, moving forward without James Wan, I have little doubt this will be the next annual horror series that relies on the same scaring routine over and over again while tragically maximizing profit, like Saw and Paranormal Activitybefore it.

My rating: 2 out of 5

About Brady Gorman
%d bloggers like this: