Directed by James Wan
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
James Wan has the secret to succeeding in Hollywood horror all figured out. With films like Saw, Dead Silence, The Conjuring and Insidious to his directorial credit, Wan has becoming Hollywood’s horror darling. He comes up with a concept and then the marketing machine goes into high gear tagging the trailers with things like “From the makers of Saw and Insidious comes…” and mainstream viewers are instantly intrigued. Throw a couple freaky images into the trailer and you can almost guarantee Wan’s films will bring in $20 to $30 million on the opening weekend. And regardless of anything else, that is great for horror. The more money it brings in at the box office, the more money studios will throw at the genre.
Which brings us to Wan’s newest film to hit the video shelves, Insidious: Chapter 2. This movie picks up immediately where the cliffhanger ending of the original left us. Lin Shaye’s character, Elise, lies dead in a chair, killed at the hands of Josh (Patrick Wilson). But it wasn’t necessarily Josh controlling his own hands. We’re treated to a flashback scene that weaves the two films together nicely, using photos and scenes we had already seen in the first movie, thus helping to join the sequel to its predecessor.
Unfortunately, aside from some eerie lighting and some creaky doors, not much happens in the first half hour or so of Insidious: Chapter 2. In fact, even when we begin to see some of the paranormal occurrences begin again, they seem commonplace, like something we’ve experienced before. They go back to the baby monitor and rocking horse gags which were very effective in Insidious, but at times it feels like this movie is just going through the motions.
However, this is no fault of the cast. In fact, it seemed as if all the players really delivered in Insidious: Chapter 2. Patrick Wilson was very impressive as Josh possessed by an inner demon. Young Ty Simpkins was also entertaining as young Dalton. And without Lin Shaye to carry the powerful female part for most of the film, Barbara Hershey came forward and really stood out amongst the cast. The paranormal investigation team of Specs and Tucker (Whannell and Sampson) returned to provide some comic relief, but seemed a bit lost without Elise to be their foundation. That being said though, they still delivered some laughs.
Knowing they had to expand the story from the original haunting, writers Wan and Whannell made a bold move and decided to work a serial killer’s ghost into the mix. This turned out to be a great choice as now the Lambert Family was not only dealing with a haunting, but a haunting by known malevolent entities. However the action that goes into them discovering just who the haunting presences are comes across more like a Scooby-Doo mystery than an intense thriller. The addition of a creepy abandoned mental hospital surprisingly doesn’t do much to make the film any more frightening.
As Insidious: Chapter 2 rolls on and the story of serial killer Parker Crane begins to unravel, the movie then takes a much more interesting turn. We get a backstory on the character that is about as freaky as you can get in a film with a PG-13 rating. It would have been very interesting to see what Whannell and Wan could have come up with if they had decided to take this into the world of the R-ratings. The doors were open to some really twisted possibilities had they decided to go that way. Crane is an interesting addition to the film, but it’s his mother (played electrically by Danielle Bisutti) steals every scene she is in.
As previously mentioned, some of the acting performances were very impressive in this movie and perhaps none more so than Wilson. Josh is dealing with a possession throughout the film so he not only has to play the part of his character lost in The Further, but he needs to play his possessed character which exists in the actual world. His highlight is a Nicholson-esque freak-out episode that was definitely reminiscent of The Shining.
As a whole, Insidious: Chapter 2 is actually worth less than the sum of its parts. Some impressive acting performances and interesting twists on the original story are nice additions to the series. But somehow as a whole the film is less than inspiring. There are certainly peaks where the audience’s attention is fully grabbed, but there are many lulls in the action that slow things down way too much. Although not really a badge of honor to the true horror fan, it must be noted that Insidious: Chapter 2 does deliver some impressive jump scares. Yeah, they’re cheap thrills, but you take what you can get.
Checking out the special features, you’ll find your obligatory “Behind the Scenes” featurette which gives a nice look into the making of the film. Although it’s not very long, it is quite thorough, containing interviews with everyone from James Wan to many of the main cast and key members of the crew as well. It was really interesting to hear how the different crew members adhered to such detail in putting their own personal stamp on the movie. Additionally, there is a feature entitled Ghostly Transformations which is basically another behind the scenes piece, only this one focuses primarily on the special F/X department and their techniques for creating the ghostly entities and other ghoulish surprises in the film. Exclusive to the Blu-ray are two additional featurettes as well as the Specs and Tucker webisodes.
Wan and producers Oren Peli and Jason Blum are box office darlings and know how to market a film. They also know how to deliver just enough content to keep viewers coming back for more from one sequel to the next and it looks like that’s what Insidious: Chapter 2 will be remembered as, a satisfactory sequel that managed to advance the series a bit, but not really stand out for anything in particular.
2 1/2 out of 5
3 out of 5