‘Insidious: Chapter 2:’ Further Into the Further

There’s something so campy and generally uncool about the Insidious films, and for some reason, that makes them absolutely great. The writing is kind of cheesy. The acting is for the most part pretty amateurish (Rose Byrne, Patrick Wilson, and of course Barbara Hershey are the exceptions here), but it seems so almost on purpose, which makes it work, inexplicably. The music, by the now quite recognizable Joseph Bishara, with its leaps in volume and stringy surprises, is phenomenally effective and in a way, hilarious. This Chapter has a few straight up funny moments as well. All of these elements combined make Insidious: Chapter 2 a retro, truly old school horror film.

Written by Leigh Whannell of Saw fame, and directed by recently anointed New Prince of Horror, James Wan, Chapter 2 begins where Insidious left off, then very quickly darts and dashes in a bunch of different, cool directions that mostly make sense and further the story of the Lambert family and their struggles with astral projecting and getting lost in worlds full of dead people while evil spirits try to kill them. It’s a real problem for them, and it comes full circle in Chapter 2. Josh (a very attractive Patrick Wilson, who has the incredible ability to make himself seem pretty evil while his face remains beautiful) hasn’t fully escaped the evil or The Further, and though at the end of the first movie, they got their son, Dalton, back, the haunting continues.

With the help of Carl (Steve Coulter), Specs (Whannell), and Tucker (Angus Sampson), the Lamberts attempt to gain information about the spirits wreaking havoc on their lives. It’s a big ol’ mess of creepy abandoned hospitals, flashbacks to Josh’s childhood, old VHS tapes, strange mother/son gender issues, pianos playing by themselves, babies going missing, dice that help communicate with the dead, etc. There’s a lot going on, but it ties things together cleverly, explains moments from the first movie, and there are some good spooks along the way.

It’s not super scary, but neither was the first movie. It’s more intriguing, a more tangible exploration of ghosts and spirits. The characters in the Insidious films stew in the world of the dead, live there and try to understand them in a way that characters don’t normally in horror films. They literally walk away from ghosts reaching for them, or unmask them and stare in their eyes, or, in one instance, enlist their help to defeat the evil spirits. This may make the movies seem less scary than others, but I’m okay with it. It’s more interesting than a straight haunting.

I could have used fewer shots of creepy dolls and baby carriages, and there were some fight scenes that went on a little long, but overall, it maintains the tension well, due, in part, to Patrick Wilson’s performance. It’s unnerving to watch him. Following The Conjuring so quickly may not have been the greatest idea, as some of the themes and instances overlap, but generally, Insidious is a much more complex story, and as a continuation of the first one, it’s great fun.

There’s a scene at the end that clearly sets us up for a third installment, but it’s so out of the blue and random and full of chracters we’ve never seen before that it would have served the movie better if it came after the credits.

Overall, though, as long as INSIDIOUS keeps popping up onscreen in huge, red letters with a jarring, screeching note behind it, I’ll be in that theater.

Grade: B+

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Dan O'Neill
Dan O'Neill
10 years ago

Though they probably didn’t intend for it to happen, I laughed a whole hell of a lot. Nice review Robin.