Insidious: Chapter 2 (2012) Directed by James Wan. Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey. IMDB says: ”The haunted Lambert family seeks to uncover the mysterious childhood secret that has left them dangerously connected to the spirit world.”
PRO TIP: You probably shouldn’t read this review if you haven’t seen the first Insidious. There is the possibility of spoilers and also the pretty major fact that you might not understand anything I’m talking about.
After heaping praise on James Wan’s Insidious, I eagerly anticipated his next effort. His follow up film The Conjuring pretty much blew me away with it’s bone-chilling execution of scares. When Insidious Chapter 2 was announced I was obviously excited but also concerned. Could Wan really craft the same scares centering on what is essentially the exact same story? The short answer to that question might be a simple “no” but the real truth is that he didn’t try to.
Shortly following a fun piece of back story, we start Chapter 2 right where the first film left off. The Lambert family is dealing with the ghost that came back with Josh (Patrick Wilson,) trying desperately to overcome the haunting. There are a few weird sounds down the hall, objects moving on their own and apparitions floating past frame. Then slowly but surely the film spreads clues to a larger mystery. The ghost hunters from the previous film installment (Leigh Whannell & Angus Sampson) join up with Carl (Steve Coulter) an old friend of their late mentor Elise (Lynn Shane) to help find out the ghosts’ motivations for terrorizing the family, and more importantly, how to stop it. As the events unfold, it’s clear that Wan & co-writer Leigh Whannell don’t want to duplicate the first film. In all honesty, The Conjuring sort of nailed that idea, using a very similar concept as Insidious and improving upon it’s faults. With Insidious Chapter 2, we are treated to a little more world building and franchise potential.
In order to keep the series fresh and open for more installments, Wan/Leigh decided to do a bit of quality control. Insidious One is like the frame work, the showcase if you will, of a scary story that sticks with you. You want to spend more time with the family and more time in that world so then we have Insidious Two. The second film doesn’t have time to play with the possibility of a haunting. There isn’t time for the family to consider if what they’re seeing is real and by extension, there isn’t that period of time where audiences are moaning to “get out of the house” because the characters are just “so stupid.” Chapter 2 understands this where the vast majority of horror sequels don’t. So we are very quickly introduced to the new paranormal activity and ghost presence. After a few scenes, things really heat up and we realize this isn’t going to be just like the first film. The quality control I mentioned earlier comes in the form of a lot of clever tie ins to the original film. Strange noises are decoded as more of “The Further” is explained. It was a fun ride exploring the connections and it kept me interested throughout the film. If anything, the movie tends to over-explain a bit and could have benefited from a little editing. Nothing too egregious but I suspect it would have helped the movie run smoother.
Don’t get me wrong though, there are definitely some scares to be found here. The movie isn’t as engrossing from a tension standpoint as it’s predecessor but I can’t say I didn’t jump out of my seats on more than a few occasions. Also, the cast as a whole does a fine job in the film, with Patrick Wilson being the stand out as the creepy dad that just isn’t who he used to be. He has the biggest opportunity to chew scenery but he tows the line of serious and hammy just right for the tone of the film. Rose Bryne still feels like a weak point for me which I still find surprising considering I’m usually a fan of hers in other work she has done.
All in all, I had a great time watching Chapter 2 and I would be pleased as punch if this continued into a franchise. If you are looking for the same adrenaline rush found in Insidious One, watch The Conjuring. But if you’re ready for a proper sequel that expands the story, Insidious Chapter 2 should not disappoint.