Editor’s note: This review was first published Sept. 13, 2013.
‘Insidious: Chapter 2’ an unstable scare fest
Continuing where the terrifying “Insidious” (read the review here) left off, “Insidious: Chapter 2” comes across as as though it were on two separate tracks. On one, it cleans up and puts in some effort to rectify some of the flaws of its predecessor (including making sure the ending isn’t terrible). On the other track, however, “Chapter 2” feels lazy and a bit repetitive. It’s scary and plenty of frights abound, but it lacks the genuine thrill and atmosphere the original possessed.
Think of it as a hot, scary mess. With spirits.
“Insidious: Chapter 2,” directed by James Wan (“Insidious”) and written by him and Leigh Whannell, takes place immediately after the sequel-assuring ending of the first movie. Renai and Josh Lambert (Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson reprise their roles) are contending with the aftermath of a malevolent entity haunting their family. With the family back together, they decide to stay at Josh’s mother’s (Barbara Hershey) as the cops deal with the murdered medium (Lin Shaye) at their home. (In case you didn’t see the first one, the medium, Elise, was responsible for saving the family in the short term, though she was murdered at the end by a very angry being.)
“Chapter 2” takes little time reminding us matters weren’t truly settled at the end of the first part. Within minutes, Renai starts hearing creepy sounds, seeing unexplained moving objects and believing the entities that haunted them haven’t left yet. However, she doesn’t get much help to begin with, especially from Josh. (It’s easy to know why, but it’s also a bit of a spoiler to reveal the reason.)
Trying to deal with the lingering spirits consumes the vast majority of the rest of the film, taking Josh’s mother, medium Carl (Steve Coulter) and Elise’s old working partners (who still prove humorously inept at what they do) to several locations and realms to figure out just what is happening.
A prequel element also makes a showing, as the film reverts back to Josh’s youth when his mother and Elise ask him questions about the old woman who haunts him. Its effect is hit-and-miss: It’s nice to have that background information, as it proves useful in explaining why this family is so attractive to spirits that seek to cause harm. However, the scene shifts between present and past are poorly executed, leaving you confused and then angry later in the movie because certain aspects don’t make an iota of sense.
Though spooky and scream-inducing, most scenes involve cliched scenarios and locales, including an abandoned hospital and a little girl’s room. Yes, seeing rocking horses move on their own is creepy. We’ve also seen it before. It can a bit aggravating knowing you’re about to creeped out by small, disturbing children, and then be proved right when you’re scared half to death when said children pop up in your face.
A sequel seems sure to follow, this time dropping Wilson and Byrne and instead following Elise’s spirit and her bumbling sidekicks as they confront evil ghouls in the dark.
“Insidious: Chapter 2” is scary in a way a lot of horror movies are: jumpscares, tight edits and creepy sounds galore. That’s the problem. If you’re going to use base horror-movie antics, you need to use them in creative and terrifying ways (think “The Conjuring” — read the review here). If you’re lazy and half-hearted, you will produce the same. The sequel, in the end, just drags down the original into that dark, dank place where no one dares to venture.
Two haunting stars out of five.