Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Terror and Violence, and Thematic Elements
Directed by: James Wan
Written by: Leigh Whannell
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Barbara Hershey & Steve Coulter
Warning! The review contains SPOILERS for INSIDIOUS. If you have not seen INSIDIOUS yet, do yourself a favor: go buy it, turn out the lights, crank up the sound, and prepare to witness one of the scariest horror movies of the new millennium. If you have seen INSIDIOUS, then feel free to read on!
In 2010, a little movie called INSIDIOUS premiered at TIFF and made huge waves in the critical world. In 2011, the film was put into wide release and grossed almost 100 million. This was particularly impressive when you consider that INSIDIOUS was budgeted just over 1 million. Hollywood took the money as a sign that a sequel was necessary and two years later, we have INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2. One thing that should be praised to the heavens about this sequel is that it isn’t necessarily the same thing over again. Wan and Whannell actually try to take the newly born franchise into a different direction and it works with mixed results.
After a flashback sequence set in the 1980’s involving a young Josh (father from the first film) and a séance gone awry, INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 picks right back up where the first film left off. The Lambert family just got their son back from the ghostly netherworld known as The Further, but the murder of Elise (the elderly psychic) has the family shaken up. While the police investigate their home, the Lamberts stay at Josh’s mother’s home. Turns out that the supernatural forces that began terrorizing the family aren’t done with them quite yet. Renai (Josh’s wife) begins seeing ghostly apparitions around the home and Josh isn’t acting like his usual self. For those who have seen the original film, you may already have a good idea why Josh is being so weird, but let me assure you that you don’t have the full picture. Things go from bad to worse, grim grinning ghosts come out to do more than just socialize, and some seriously freaky scenarios occur!
To re-examine the first INSIDIOUS reveals that the ghosts were plentiful and there was the constant threat of a demonic presence throughout. By the time the third act had broken out, Josh had ventured into The Further to find his son, while all hell was breaking loose in the Lambert household. The last-minute revelation that Josh had brought back the evil spirit of an old woman, who had haunted him as a child, wound up being one of the scariest twist-endings in quite some time. So we pretty much have a good idea who’s responsible for Elise’s demise, but CHAPTER 2 does a great job of ramping up the tension in spite of that.
This sequel is actually more focused on two spirits in particular. The creepy old woman inhabiting Josh’s body and another freaky apparition who’s appearing constantly around the house. In this sense, it’s more confined in that we don’t see many other spirits and it’s more of a straightforward possession story with a dash of haunted house thrown in. The script is still smart and has some neat twists thrown in. There are some genuine scares throughout and the atmosphere is thick with dread. CHAPTER 2 is spooky fun while it lasts, but it’s not without some major faults.
There is some really awful dubbing in the opening flashbacks of Lin Shaye’s voice coming out of a much younger actress and it takes the viewer out of what could have been a much creepier scene. The logic behind this decision doesn’t make much sense. Our voices evolve as we grow older. It would have made just as much sense to dub an adult Patrick Wilson over the actor portraying him as a child. Then there are some of the scares that don’t work too well. Some of the typical gotcha moments that have no place in an INSIDIOUS movie. The first film made you jump because there were real scary things to the scares. In this sequel, there are shocks that feel so predictable that they’re dusty. Finally, the conclusion seems a bit half-hearted. There was massive build up to the finale and nothing much came from it. The final seconds feel phoned in as if begging for a CHAPTER 3, which I wouldn’t really welcome after seeing 2.
The best scares do come from a new character introduced in this sequel. Elise’s former assistant, who communicates with the dead by rolling lettered dice and spelling out the words that come in those letters. This provides some really intense moments, particularly in a confrontation between him and a possessed Josh. Credit where credit is due, INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 doesn’t merely retread old ground and continues the story in an interesting way. I just wish that some of the ideas turned out better on film than they probably did in script form. This is said to be Wan’s last horror movie. After viewing this and the overrated critically acclaimed THE CONJURING, I think the man needs to get away from horror, at least for a little while.
INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 is entertaining and spooky fun, but that’s about all it winds up being. I expected more, but this is okay. Take that for what you will.