Directed by James Wan
Reviewed by Anthony Francis
October 2013 is among us, and that means Halloween is closing in. Let the horror fest begin!
Our horror filled month begins with the new release, Insidious Chapter 2. Hot off the heels of his massive hit from this past summer, The Conjuring, James Wan has given genre fans a sequel to his 2010 haunted house/possession film Insidious.
The first film was a near perfect scare fest that was a real surprise. It was directed with a classic horror style and relied more on atmosphere to create a feeling of true terror. I loved that film and, along with their marvelously frightening The Conjuring and the originally twisted original Saw, director Wan and screenwriter Leigh Wannell have proven themselves to be new masters of the horror genre.
Insidious Chapter 2 takes place minutes after the ending of the first film. The family, played once again by Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, have fled with their children to Wilson’s mother’s house, played by the ever alluring Barbara Hershey. They think they have escaped the ghosts of the first film but soon realize that something has followed them. In fact, Wilson , as we know from the end of the first film, has become possessed by one of the evil spirits.
The creepy scenes in the first half of the film are very effective as pianos play by themselves, closet doors open, images of ghosts are seen in the house, and most effectively, a baby walker rolls back into a room after already being pushed away by the mother. I was genuinely creeped out by many of these sequences. Wan knows how to scare his audience without resorting to cheap tricks. He knows how to find terror in the quiet.
We are treated to a flashback of Wilson’s character as a young boy in 1986. This is shown to help explain the origin of the hauntings. It is a nicely done sequence, especially since it features the great Lin Shaye, and it ties in well with what happens later in the film.
Throughout the first half of the film we are in non-stop ghost territory where the hauntings work and are supremely scary. When Wan allows us to see one of the female ghosts who turns to the camera, points her finger, and screams a devilish scream, we know we will not be sleeping comfortably tonight! For about an hour this film is really, really, scary.
Then we get to the final act and things go completely off the rails. Here we get a lame and tired rehash of The Shining and Poltergeist where the father, now fully possessed, is chasing his family trying to kill them and the son has to go into the “other world” to try and find his father and bring him back into this dimension.
None of these plot elements work and they are all thrown in within the last half hour and are much ado about nothing. We have seen all of this before and better executed. I do not know what Wan and screenwriter Wannell were thinking with the final third but it is a silly mess.
This film pales in comparison with the first Insidious and is blown off the map by Wan’s earlier triumph, The Conjuring. That film is a new modern horror masterpiece.
I do not dislike Insidious Chapter 2. For a long time it sustains a true scary vibe that most horror films these days cannot achieve. It is when the filmmakers try to “up the ante” and explain the hauntings that the film loses us. It becomes a cheap and rather rushed composite of silly cliché’s and better horror films.
The first Insidious scared me from start to finish and left me wanting more. Insidious Chapter 2 scared me for a little while and, by the end, left me saying, “no more.”
2 ½ out of 5 stars.
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