What’s it About?
The haunted Lambert family seeks to uncover the mysterious childhood secret that has left them dangerously connected to the spirit world.
“Insidious: Chapter 2”
Directed by James Wan
7 out of 10
To some, I may be a bit generous with the score I have given Wan’s second horror outing of 2013 (The first being the creepy and enjoyable “The Conjuring”). I will go on record, that this entry, and sequel to the runaway hit that was “Insidious” is indeed a mixed bag of a horror film. I did find some things in it to really enjoy. It may be because I am now very jaded about sequels that never really live up to the first installments (I have yet to finish those darn “VHS” flicks, I’ve heard the second was quite good). That being said, I went into this film with some trepidation and low expectations.
Wan’s second film is a well put together movie and looks and sounds really cool with loads of atmosphere and style. The mood that is set up is brought on over from Wan and writer Leigh Whannell’s first movie and it fits right in. Here and there, the team gives us some spooky flashes of cleverness but it takes a while to get to that point and when it does we are already a bit irked by all of the empty and rote horror adages. Audiences are fickle when it comes to horror films these days since the genre is probably the most inundated of them all with some many trite and abysmal offerings. What worked in one film won’t usually work in another. That goes for sequels as well. Just look at the “Matrix” films.
Ala “Poltergeist 2,” Josh and Renai Lambert (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) have moved in Barbara Hershey, who plays Josh’s mother, Lorraine. Before long, though, Renai starts to hear things and experience paranormal activity once again. To makes things worse, Josh is being investigated in the the death of Elise (Lin Shaye) from the end of the first film. As investigators, Specs (Writer Leigh Whannell), and Tucker (Angus Sampson) return to help the Lamberts, along with Steve Coulter who plays Carl, they find that many things may be buried much deeper. The mystery takes a few twists and turns that involve a very young Josh and Elise and a strange female entity that plays a major part of the terror.
Now, to start, the film is buried in convention for sure. But it is capably handled by Wan. That’s not to say that the approach could have been a bit more unique to the new story that they try to tell here. Unfortunately, Wan relies too much on these cliches that he himself has propagated in his other films. The overuse of loud, blaring music to scare us being the biggest old chestnut. I mean, John Carpenter used it a bit himself and it became his trademark but here Wan just lets loose on every little thing that he thinks warrants our ear drums to bleed. Wan also inundates us with creepy low angles, shapes in pictures, hokey hypnosis, loud announcements of supernatural events and the old boy in a dream ploy. Um…been there, done that. But I will cut Wan some slack. I like the guy.
In all fairness, though, Wan manages to right the ship with his very professional eye and clever editing. The film is indeed a familiar tune but it is a very good sounding tune. Alongside of some of the inanity the movie has some clever plot devices and twists that connect the two films with lean insight. Many scenes that are re-visited from the first movie and connected by the story provides a few “Ah. Now, I get it” moments for many viewers. Wan and his DP John Leonetti (who has been shooting the beautiful looking “Sleepy Hollow” for FOX) paint a downcast and spooky picture with this movie and for the most part, the slow set up with people wandering around the dark and gloomy house, looks rather cool. Afterwards, when things finally get going we tend to feel that the vibe and look of the movie may be a bit long in the tooth.
“Insidious: Chapter 2” redeems itself the further we go in. Almost. After wading through the sluggish set up Wan delivers a polished movie with a high end look and love for the material. That is it’s saving grace in my opinion. Tension and suspense are built with precise aptness, something we do not expect less from regarding Wan. The movie is a real fan’s movie. Anyone with a knowledge of what worked in the story from Wan’s first movie will still dig what works here. The movie is very much more of the same with just a bit more meat in the hindsight of the proceedings. For anyone going in cold, here, may find themselves scratching their heads a few times at what is going on.
There are things to like in this movie but we have to muddle through the ole cliche mire in order to come out on the other end. Wan’s over reliance on disquisition and elucidation is definitely on display in this entry. But, perhaps the PG 13 rating had something to do with it but I don’t really feel that may have been the issue. Blaring musical jolts and scares abound in this movie but be patient. Wan gives us a savvy movie which hits some high notes when it flexes it’s atmospheric muscles and throws in some genuinely fine horror moments. If only some of the commonplace hokum and cliches would have been left on the doorstep.