Directed by James Wan
Director James Wan’s latest film is the follow up to the 2010 cult horror flick Insidious. Widely regarded by genre fans as one of the best horror films in recent memory, Wan’s original left the next installment with some big shoes to fill. [WARNING: MILD SPOILERS for Insidious]
Chapter 2 picks up where the last movie ended, directly after the death of Elise (Shaye). Josh (Wilson), Renai (Byrne), and the children move into Lorraine’s (Hershey) home temporarily as police investigate the death. Renai senses that Josh is not himself and immediately begins to experience strange occurrences, while Dalton continues to astral project. With the help of old friend and paranormal investigator Carl, Lorraine attempts to discover the history behind the old woman who has haunted her son since childhood in an effort to return him to normal and rid her family of the spirits who continue to haunt them.
The aptly named Insidious: Chapter 2 is heavily dependent on the first film, and while it gives viewers the highlights, the mythology only really makes sense if you’ve seen the original Insidious. Wan and Whannell took a chance intertwining the two films so intricately, but the fanbase was definitely there for a second film. On one hand, I was excited to see what happened to the Lamberts after Josh and Dalton returned from the Further, but by exploring the old woman’s backstory, she lost some of her intensity and didn’t seem as frightening as she did in the first film. The movie had some genuine scares, particularly since I watched it in an empty theater, and all of the elements I loved about the first film are present in the second. The cinematography, set dressings, and scares are nods to classic horror, which the fangirl in me adored. Chapter 2 isn’t as cohesive and tightly woven as Chapter 1; the emphasis was definitely heavier on the jump scares than expanding the story in an original way. Some of it does feel like a rehash of the first film, and the old woman’s back story is a bit cliched, but the film as an entire package worked for me as a dedicated supernatural horror fan.
The first Insidious shouldered Byrne with much of the heavy lifting, but it’s Wilson who does most of the work in the latest film. His character has a deeply menacing edge that’s present from the beginning and steadily grows of the course of the film. His performance reminded me of Jack Nicholson’s in The Shining and it was a really nice change from the fringe character he played in the original flick. Lin Shaye, as always, is amazing. (If I was a casting director, I would cast her in everything.) Byrne seems a little bit wasted, but if you view the two films as a full story, both of the main actors get their chances to shine.
If you’re a supernatural horror fan, I highly recommend watching both Insidious films. They have a great classic haunted house feel, in the vein of movies like The Shining, The Sixth Sense, and Poltergeist. They’re also proof that PG-13 films can be insanely scary using tracking shots and suspenseful music. Chapter 3 has just been announced, and it will most likely follow Elise’s assistants Specs and Tucker as they help another family escape the clutches of otherworldly spirits.