I already said everything I need to say about the first Insidious, as well as director James Wan, in my review of The Conjuring. If you haven’t read that yet, check it out, it’s good -http://www.totalactionadventure.com/content/movie-review-conjuring. So we can skip right past that stuff and get to the sequel. In my eyes, following the first Insidious is a pretty tough act. I mean do you remember how that movie ended? I’m not going to get into spoiler territory but if you’ve seen that movie, you know they wrapped things up pretty tidily. I’m guessing they didn’t have a sequel in mind when they did that, so it must have been a pretty daunting task to go back and figure out a sensible way to continue the story. How’d they do? Click that fancy continue on link and find out.
Insidious Chapter 2 (I really love that it’s called that by the way) continues the very next day after the events of the first movie. The biggest question mark (the fate of a certain character) is dealt with in a reasonably satisfying manner. The police are looking into it, that’s about all we get, but hey at least they don’t back pedal and say that it never happened. Man, writing this without going into spoilers is going to be way harder than I originally thought.
It also doesn’t take long for Rose Byrne to discover that shit is definitely not ok, and that the spirits who haunted her family in the first movie are very much still around, waiting behind her to startle her, or sometimes just content gliding around her hallways in the background. From there we start getting into the background of some of those spirits from the first movie, and we also learn more about Josh’s(Patrick Wilson)childhood and just why his shit is so fucked up. I don’t want to say too much, but let me say that this movie is far from predictable and goes to some places you do not expect. I can certainly see why people may take issue with some of the routes the plot travels, but I was cool with it since it’s never afraid of going the, let’s say sillier, route.
You have yourself some solid performances here. Wilson gets to go pretty over-the-top with Josh, channeling a little Jack Torrance, especially in the final half. At the same time he manages to keep it juuuuust restrained enough that it never gets into cartoonish territory, though it’s borderline at times. Leigh Whannel and Angus Sampson are back as Specs and Tucker, the two spirit guide dudes who provide the comic relief. I’d heard a lot of complaints that they feel out of place but I found the jokes actually worked, and honestly they’re not even in the movie a whole lot. Speaking of, I was surprised to see that Rose Byrne isn’t even in the movie all that much, with most of her time consisting of looking scared or just full out screaming. She’s quite good at both though so it’s fine! If anything, Barbara Hershey as Josh’s Mom is almost the star here, which is kind of awesome and we already know she can bring the goods as she has been bringing them for decades now.
Wan continues to prove that he can put together a horror set piece like a god damn champion. He’s a pro at the obvious jump scare, where you know something is coming but it’s dragged out for so long that you become uncertain as to when it’s coming and then OH SHIT WHAT’S UP GHOST?! He’s also terrific at the unexpected jump scare, whipping them at you in broad daylight and still making it effective. He’s terrific at ensuring that you never quite feel safe, and that you know a jump scare could be coming at any second. This also means the characters in his movies can often do the right thing, such as turn on every light they encounter when exploring a dark house in the middle of the night. They do it, it just doesn’t matter as a creepy Mom ghost can still come screaming at them at any moment.
While there are plenty of jolt scares (did I mention they are never punctuated with the clichéd BWAM horror noise but instead by ghosts screaming? That is definitely way better), it’s still the quieter moments that prove to be the most effective sequences in the film. As soon as one of the kids reveals he has put together a tin can telephone, you know that son of a bitch is going to come into play in a huge way, and it does not disappoint when the moment arrives. That, and an early moment involving a game of “hot and cold” are two stand-out pieces that ratchet up the tension until it’s almost unbearable. Admittedly there are fewer of these than in the first Insidious, but what we get is effective and consistently unsettling.
The story is pretty hit and miss, though the same could also be said for the first Insidious. They definitely go some pretty silly routes with the plot, however they seem to be fully aware of this most of the time, hence the inclusion of more straight comedy here. The back story revelations for the spirits are pretty clichéd, as they feature the same motivation that countless movie bad guys have had. At the same time though, I wasn’t expecting it to happen here, so it’s an unpredicted cliché at the very least. Also the Shining-esque stuff with Josh is just a wee bit goofy. Oh and in case you were wondering, there is indeed a blatant set-up for a Chapter 3, but it’s pretty lazy and seems to scream “we have no idea what the next movie will be about but it will happen soooooo here ya go. We’ll sort out the details later!”.
Insidious Chapter 2 doesn’t match the first one in terms of scares, but it finds an interesting and often unexpected way to continue the franchise, while still delivering some terrific set pieces and genuinely scary moments. Apparently this is James Wan’s final go at the horror genre (god I really hope that isn’t true), and while The Conjuring would have been the better swan song, this still ain’t a bad way to go out.