Director – James Wan
Cast – Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, Lin Shaye, Ty Simpkins, Leigh Whannell, Steve Coulter, Angus Sampson, Andrew Astor, Hank Harris, Jocelin Donahue, Lindsay Seim, Danielle Bisutti, Tyler Griffin, Garrett Ryan
Release Year – 2013
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell crashed the horror scene with one of the most notable horror films of all time, Saw. While they had forever left their mark by bringing what some refer to as “torture porn” to the American audience, they were far from through with showing off their talents and gave us one of the best horror films of this decade…Insidious. While I love Insidious just as much as the next guy, I was not very excited to learn about Insidious: Chapter 2. I loved the idea of Wan and Whannell teaming up to give us another horror film, but I felt that the story created for Insidious did not have the material to give us another full length experience…and to an extent I was right. The filmmakers once again managed to give us a creepy experience that delivers some good scares, but in the end Insidious: Chapter 2 is not only a film we did not need but also a big step down from its predecessor that sadly ends the series on a mediocre note.
The story takes off immediately after the events of Insidious, where the Lambert family desperately tries to move on with their lives after saving young Dalton from The Further. When the hauntings begin to occur again and grow in intensity, their friends seek to uncover Josh’s long-forgotten childhood secret that has left his family dangerously connected to a malignant force in the spirit world.
I was curious to how Wan and Whannel would conjure up enough story to fulfill another film, and they did so by taking us deeper into the further and Josh’s past. First I must applaud the writers for giving us an ambitious attempt to end the series they created, but this ambition also resulted in a muddy story that never seemed to find its rhythm. This happened as a result of the story’s constant time-traveling between the current and Josh’s past, where little time and development was spent with either before throwing us back into the other. Because of this the writers were unable to use Renai to her full potential and instead forced themselves to use her as mediocre conflict for the first two acts of the film, where she merely suspected Josh of being under an evil influence but did little to pursue her theory and save her family. Instead, she served as a rag doll chew toy for the spirit. The same loss of potential also applies to Specs and Tucker, who played a significant role in the first film but a very insignificant one in this sequel. Gone are the days when they actually helped the Lambert family and now they serve as two stooges who mostly provide comic relief at just the right moments. This comic relief was good and I did find it enjoyable, but sadly it was not accompanied by them executing their profession.
As mentioned earlier this ambitious story provides a heavy time travel element that takes us from the present, to the past, and back again, giving us some cool insight into why the malevolent force is attacking the Lambert family and slowly explaining Josh’s relation to the spirit world. I did enjoy the flashback scenes and found them to provide some good creepiness as well, my only balk is that the way the scenes were written into the film ruined its fluidity and pacing. There are plenty of scare scenes for the viewer to enjoy and most of them were pretty enjoyable. As mentioned earlier the spirit involved harbors a growing tenacity that we get to experience first-hand, so despite the story’s faults at least expect some good chills.
Speaking of good chills, James Wan’s direction is great as usual. He does a fantastic job of setting up positive atmosphere that also comes with incredible sets in every location he used. Never before have I really found myself enamored by the extreme detail of film sets used by a horror director, and James Wan really knows how to visually strike the viewer in a subtle way that does not take away from the horror. This was especially prevalent in the homes used during the flashback scenes, where every lamp, light fixture, and wall color was perfectly articulated to grab our attention and suck us in, which allows the scares to hit us even harder. His execution of the scares alone is great and he left me with goosebumps on numerous occasions. His villains are effectively creepy and he sticks to the plain Jane makeup effects used in Insidious, which brought back memories of classic horror from the 50s and 60s. The acting performances were good enough, with our protagonists doing well and the antagonists coming off a bit too cheesy for my liking, but all in all it was Wan’s direction that really saved this mediocre piece from potentially being a disastrous way for Wan to leave the genre after giving us almost 10 years of solid horror films.
Overall, Insidious: Chapter 2 is an unnecessary sequel that naturally suffered the consequences of being just that. The scares are good and so is the direction, but the story is so muddy that it never finds a rhythm and the snowball effect kicks into gear. This is not a bad film as it does come with some positives, but it is not a good film either and comes nowhere near the greatness of its predecessor.