“Some scares are rather genuine…”
I overlooked the original Insidious for a couple weeks before hearing unusual high-praise from friends and critics alike. It was a PG-13 horror film, which turned me off initially, but upon seeing it, I realized it was surprisingly effective in delivering suspense and, at the time, slight unconventionality with the paranormality of its premise. Now, I feel as if I’ve seen it all with the paranormal genre being abused, rehashed, and ridiculously overwrought.
Insidious: Chapter 2 isn’t a film that shows me I haven’t seen it all, but a film that shows me I’ve seen most of the tricks of the genre. It’s an acceptable film, but not a very memorable one. Rehashed sequel vibes reign quite frequently, and money seems to be in the mind of everyone involved. However, it’s apparent that quality was at least higher on the to-do-list for director James Wan than one would expect from a PG-13 horror film that was a runaway-success. Wan has stated that since he had little creative control after he made the first Saw film, he wanted the sequel to Insidious to be his own personal work, rather than redundant sequels clearly made to churn a profit.
In Insidious: Chapter 2, we are reconnected with the Lambert family, made up of father Josh (Patrick Wilson), mother Renai (Rose Byrne), and their young son Dalton (Ty Simpkins), who simply can’t shake being haunted by the paranormal. The Lambert family moves into their grandparents’ home to try and escape these entities, but when the paranormal follows them into that house, they realize that because the entity is in one of them, no matter where they go they won’t be able to escape it.
The original Insidious benefited greatly from atmosphere and very slick pacing. Its second act was a bit more contradictory in the regard it was more bombastic, but still very watchable. The entire product was eerie and memorable. Insidious: Chapter 2 doesn’t have a point in its timeline where it devotes its story to being subtle and restrained. The whole film capitalizes off of jump-scares and several scenes of paranormal activity, very rarely going back to what made its predecessor worth remembering.
James Wan just hit a colossal home-run for himself and for the studio by releasing The Conjuring, a truly exciting and very worthy entry in the horror genre. The film relied, from beginning to end, on structured pacing and very reserved action, making it thoroughly exciting and easy to immerse yourself in. Insidious: Chapter 2, especially in its last forty-five minutes, is an anarchic example of horror filmmaking. It becomes so bombastic, so jumbled, and so scatter-plotted, I could’ve sworn we were diving into chapter three a little bit. Writer Leigh Whannell, who penned several films in the Saw franchise, is likely used to having a lot of catastrophic things happen at once, such as grisly murders and serial mind games. That’s fine, but it becomes very exhaustive and messy when you try and translate that style into the paranormal genre.
However, I would be lying if I said I didn’t get some joy out of Insidious: Chapter 2. Some scares are rather genuine, and the events that occurred were at least fun to experience rather than feeling like a boring retread of horror movies past. As mentioned, even if the original film can no longer stand as a singular effort, Wan didn’t completely sacrifice content for money in this installment. If nothing else, Insidious: Chapter 2 gives me hope that if we are unfortunate enough to see a sequel to July’s The Conjuring, we’ll get a pretty tolerable one if Wan holds the camera.
Review by Steve Pulaski, Lead Film Critic
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