‘Insidious: Chapter 2’

Insidious: Chapter 2Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013) — Directed by James Wan. Starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Barbara Hershey, Lin Shae, Leigh Wannell, Angus Sampson, Steve Coulter, Andrew Astor, Tom Fitzpatrick, Tyler Griffin.

In 2011’s Insidious director James Wan took us out to “The Further”, a “dark realm filled with the tortured souls of the dead”. Hey, didn’t I work there once? While our first journey into the Further pushed the boundaries of the ridiculous as we encountered a ghost who resembled Darth Maul making toys, it was still entertaining and I found the opening third to be one of the scarier things I’d seen in a while. I hoped for an equally frightening experience in the sequel released last week, Insidious: Chapter 2. Unfortunately sequels rarely live up to the first film and this entry was no different. But in spite of the lack of scares that I had hoped for I still had a good time.

The opening flashback sequence of Insidious: Chapter 2 takes place in 1986. We meet younger versions of our beloved characters: paranormal investigator Elise, ghost magnet Josh, and Josh’s mother Lorraine. This opening portion is so laughably bad that it could only have been handled by a green second unit director. I don’t think I’ve seen such wooden acting and thudding dialogue in a major production in years. But that’s not the best part… a younger actress is used for the part of Elise but for some inexplicable reason her dialogue is dubbed over using Lin Shae’s voice. It looks so terrible that, along with the amateurish acting, I was sure it was a joke and the camera would pull back to reveal a community theater production. No such luck.

The film then takes us to the moments immediately after the ending of Insidious (spoilers here for that movie, by the way…). Elise (Lin Shae) has been killed and Renai Lambert (Rose Byrne) suspects the murderer is a ghost possessing the body of her husband, Josh (Patrick Wilson), after his return from a trip into “The Further” to rescue their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins). They all move into Lorraine’s (Barbara Hershey) home and more creepy, haunted house type things take place. These early portions of Chapter 2 utilize most of the same scare tactics from the first film but somehow they aren’t nearly as effective this time. It’s more of the same– strange voices on the baby monitor and apparitions lurking behind the main characters as they investigate the house. But it seems rushed as though Wan is eager to get past the tropes he explored in Insidious and is eager to move on.

Eventually the late Elise’s partners Specs (Leigh Wannell, the film’s screenwriter) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) enter the story, a pair used mostly for comic relief. They have the potential to be annoying but end up with a couple of funny moments together that work well. That’s pretty much how I felt about them in the original film, as I recall. They meet with Carl (Steve Coulter), a medium who uses lettered dice to communicate with the dead. Ask a question, roll the dice, get your answer. Seems more efficient than a Ouija board.

Together they reach out to contact Elise, who they’re sure is trapped in The Further, but is it really her turning the dice? I’m sure you can guess the answer. Meanwhile, the new inhabitant of Josh’s body must find a way to keep it from deteriorating, as evidenced by a surprisingly non-disturbing bit where possessed-Josh pulls out his own tooth. The film picks up speed as the spirit grows desperate to maintain its grip on the body and we get some amusing sequences with a desperate Patrick Wilson chasing his family around the house. It’s not an over the top performance but he’s crazy enough to bring some much welcome camp to the film and I slowly realized that I was having a good time with Chapter 2.

Of course we take the expected trek back into “The Further”. It’s not quite as nutso as before but there’s still plenty of amusing and corny weirdness, though surprisingly this segment of Chapter 2 holds some of the creepier moments. At one point events cleverly cross over into segments from the first film, reminding me a bit of Back to the Future II. And I mean that in a good way.

With the original Insidious I found the first third scary enough that it carried me through the some of the film’s more absurd aspects. Chapter 2 doesn’t quite pull the same feat off this time and plays out as a sillier film because of it. But I like silly, ridiculous horror films, so it’s a win for me! And it seems that we’ll have a third chapter in the ongoing Insidious saga to look forward to.

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One Response to “‘Insidious: Chapter 2’”

  1. Back to the Future 2 ruled! It also reminded me of the saw movies how it tied together, didn’t he direct some of those as well?

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