– Summary –
Director : James Wan
Year Of Release : 2013
Principal Cast : Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Steve Coulter, Barbara Hershey, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Andrew Astor, Tom Fitzpatrick, Garrett Ryan, Lindsay Seim, Hank Harris, Joceline Donahue, Tyler Griffin, Michael Beach, Danielle Bisutti.
Approx Running Time : 105 Minutes.
Synopsis: The Lamberts continue to be plagued by vengeful spirits trying to come across from the Other Side.
What we think : It soon becomes apparent that Insidious 2’s shortcomings override any sense of continuance for the Lambert’s story; the film feels flat, too complex and too stuffed with ideas for a movie running just over 90 minutes. James Wan’s confident directorial skill seems to have deserted him here, as Chapter 2 becomes more a generic, flavor-of-the-month chiller than anything inventive or interesting. As a sequel, it’s worth a look, but even compared to the original, this is disappointing.
When you see dead bodies, call the cops.
Perhaps it’s just naivete on my part, but if i found a house full of corpses covered in sheets somewhere in a hidden room, I’d be on the phone to the cops. I don’t know ’bout you, but traipsing through a darkened, abandoned house filled with creepy, dusty kids toys and the stench of rotting human flesh, somewhere in my thinking a call to the emergency services might be a good idea. Not so, the writers of Insidious: Chapter 2. No, they think it’s a good idea to take video cameras, a sense of entitlement and an unholy lack of self preservation into a scenario like that. Good on them, I guess, because it gives us a chiller like Insidious 2, but for all the creaking doors, billowing curtains and plink-plonk of randomly played piano, you almost get the sense that we’re being taken for a ride into Idiotville. Now I know a good horror film should scare the willies out of most people, even if it doesn’t need to make much sense, but I’ve come to expect more from James Wan than simply shock-scares and fiddly, boo-moment cliches. Having seen The Conjuring, I know he’s capable of eliciting more tension in a darkened hallway than most directors can manage in their entire careers. Why then, is Insidious: Chapter 2 something of a let-down?
After the events of Insidious, Renai Lambert (Rose Byrne) is questioned by police following the death of medium Elise (Lin Shaye). The chief suspect is Renai’s husband Josh (Patrick Wilson), who has returned from the Further with his son Dalton (Ty Simpkin). However, as the Lambert family move into Josh’s mothers (Barbara Hershey) house, while the police continue their investigation, it soon becomes apparent that the family is still being tormented by evil spirits from beyond. Josh is disbelieving and refuses to admit there might be problem, until he can no longer hide the fact that he isn’t really the Josh Renai married – his body is now inhabited by a malevolent spirit from beyond. Renai approaches Elise’s former assistants, Specs (Lee Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) for further help, and they in turn contact another medium who Elise knew in the past, Carl (Steve Coulter), who assists them in ascertaining who – or rather what – is haunting this poor family.
Insidious was a terrific film – for its first three quarters. I write in my original review that “….Insidious goes so far off the rails in its second half it’s both annoying and frustrating to watch.” The initial premise was solidly mounted, until a bunch of flickery, shadowy eerie nonsense that rounded the film out ruined the “Creep” factor the story had spent a good hour or so building up. Insidious: Chapter 2 has little of the original’s steady build up – it takes off pretty much where the original concluded, so a rewatch of that might be in order before diving into Chapter 2 – and suffers from a weakly developed Back To The Future-type roundabout story, enough to derail the films primary interest into just another, uneventful shock-bang thriller, that offer little to differentiate it from all the others of its ilk out there.
The film flashes back cleverly to the past, namely to a young Josh undergoing hypnotherapy to deal with his ability to see into the Further (this franchise’s label for the “other side” where the recently deceased like to use as a home base to haunt from) and from there, the past comes back to haunt the family as those events tie into the events of the “present” – although I had issues with the time travel elements the story used to link both Insidious films – there’s a sequence cleverly inserted mid-way through that’s lifted directly from the first film, tying things together nicely, but the logic of the sequence didn’t make sense (can ghosts really travel back in time? What, is there some kind of Afterlife TARDIS somewhere?) and it kinda took me out of the story a little. I admit, it’s not something I’ve ever seen in a modern fright flick before (please correct me if you can think of another example) and I’ll give kudos to Wan and scripter Lee Whannell for giving it a shot, but in truth it only served to add confusion to an already convoluted plot.
The dual ghost-plot itself never tried to explain itself; you either buy into it, or you don’t, and if you don’t then the film is lost to you. The concept of the films’ primary antagonist, that of the mysterious Black Bride (who is trying to steal Dalton’s soul, I think) is nicely executed, giving the film a different focus than the original’s Darth Maul-looking creeper, although having this running parallel to the Josh-is-possessed routine felt overburdening to an already cumbersome plot. With all the different characters and subplots running about, Insidious: Chapter 2 felt too crowded, too stuffed with all the horror tropes Wan and Whannell could think of. The script lacks real precision, almost trying to get into the scares without earning them, content to just go for the skin-crawly creeps for gratuitous chills rather than developing characters (and story) to the point where the frights are legitimate. Wan’s direction, concurrently, serves little purpose other than to provide a series of equally unearned jump moments, filled with breathless exposition that is as uninvolving as it is overly complex.
Where Wan’s visual style has grown more mature since his efforts in Saw, down through Insidious and the wonderfully atmospheric The Conjuring, Chapter 2 seems to be a throwback to a less creative film-maker in it just for the paycheck. Creepy, jittery figures lurking in the shadows, creaking doors and jump-bang spooks have become genre expectations, and Wan does little to bring anything new to the table in this outing. It’s a film without flavor, if you will, a movie strung together by a hodge-podge of ideas and scenery that comes off as stale and has-been. Let me clarify – James Wan has forged his career on intelligent and crowd-pleasing horror, and I think he’s a wonderful talent working with the best in the business (hell, in the horror genre he just about is the best in the business these days), but Chapter 2 seems like he’s just cruising until he can step up for Fast & Furious 7.
Insidious: Chapter 2 is one of those sequels that opts for the bigger-is-better mantra; Wan and his team throw everything at the screen for this one, and while I’m happy to report that a lot of it sticks (and works), there’s an uncomfortable sense of insincerity at play, the kind of sequel that goes for broke but has little heart. Personally, I found Rose Bryne’s character to be horribly under-serviced, lacking in focus and existing purely to be the primary screamer of the story. Patrick Wilson’s Josh, who spends the entire film possessed and behaving like a dick, seems to be having more fun, and Wilson’s actually pretty creepy in his Not Really There body. Lin Shaye and Steve Coulter provide the main gravitas and central exposition-givers, while Lee Whannell and Angus Sampson (both Aussie thespians, alongside Rose Byrne) are sporadically amusing (although a lot less so than in the original film) as the hapless paranormal investigators Specs and Tucker. Ty Simpkin is no Haley Joel Osment, as Dalton, the Lambert’s “special” son, who has little to do other than to act scared and provide no development whatsoever to what is effectively a third-tier character in a primary role.
The film clunks along with a predictable atmospheric sense of melancholy, the kind of dread-in-the-gut style designed to elicit the skin-crawling goosebumps with every creak, crunch and snap of ghostly happenings. While it does provide some genuinely chilling moments (a scene involving the old tin-can-string-telephone routine has significant potency), the complacency sets in early and where there should be sharp, skilled story, is just generic, eye-rolling genre generics. As a vacuous jump-bang thriller it does a good job with its strong sound design, with plenty of “boo” moments, but the story (and stupidity of some of the characters) isn’t strong enough to withstand the burden of the films’ expectations. The result is a curiously flat sequel, one in which the entire original cast return but are given little to do other than run about from things that go bump in the night. Intelligent, wry horror isn’t something Chapter 2 is able to deliver, so those of you who dug the first installment might find this effort sadly lacking.
© 2014 – 2018, Rodney Twelftree. All rights reserved.