Over the weekend I ventured to theaters to see one of the more anticipated horror offerings of the year: “Insidious: Chapter 2.”
I enjoyed the first film very much when I saw it many moons ago, so I had moderately high expectations for the sequel.
Anyway, after a brief opening where we meet young Josh, young Josh’s mom and young Josh’s two psychic pals, we flash forward to the more or less present day and we pick up where the first film left off.
So spoiler alert if you haven’t seen the first one yet, but then why would you be seeing the sequel anyway? Who knows, people are weird.
Anyway there we meet present day Josh (the lovely Patrick Wilson), his present day wife Renai (the lovelier Rose Byrne), their family, some paranormal investigators and one of the psychic’s from Josh’s youth, who is now dead.
Lost yet? Hopefully not.
Back to the aftermath from part one. Josh has just pulled his young son back from the land of the dead, but somehow in the process, his psychic helper has gone and gotten herself strangled. Now dead psychics usually arouse police suspicion and cops don’t usually take “The spirits killed her” as an excuse.
Naturally, everyone thinks Josh killed her, even Renai isn’t so sure. Who spells Renee like that, by the way? Josh isn’t really helping his case because he keeps acting like a crazy robot person.
And since this is a movie about ghosts, more supernatural stuff starts going down, this time involving an apparition in a nurse’s uniform – not the sexy kind either – and most of it is centered around Josh and Renai’s infant daughter.
Enough with the plot summary, let's get to your biggest question, is part two any good?
Well, if you’re familiar with part one, never fear, the delightful paranormal investigating team of Specs (Leigh Whannell, who’s also wrote the screenplay) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) are back and once again steal the show. In fact, I haven’t seen part one in a bit as I said, but it seems like they have way more to do this time around, nearly splitting screen time with our lovely leading couple.
That’s definitely a good thing. The rest of the movie is kind of hit or miss.
It retains a lot of the amusement park haunted mansion feel of part one, only that movie kept the leash on the campiness a little bit better. The screwiness of part two sometimes overshadows the pretty dark stuff that’s supposed to be going on.
Wilson especially falls victim to a lot of cringe worthy, over-the-top lines and situations, especially during his robotic, post-trip-to-the-land-of-the-dead phase.
The movie still relies super-heavily on boo scares and most especially on insanely loud musical stings to make audiences jump. Thinking back on it now, there isn’t much tension to be found here, outside of maybe the opening trip to the past and pretty awesome bit involving a tin-can phone the kids build.
There are some other jumpy moments, but nothing that burns like the wall-to-wall tension I remember from part one.
Part two’s storyline seems a little overwritten, too. Part of that is probably to give the paranormal investigators something more to do. There ends up being a ton of stuff to follow and it sometimes gets confusing.
For example at a certain point it became a chore to remember who exactly was possessing who.
And one of the spirit’s motivations: an abusive mother who imbued a good deal of sexual confusion on him, isn’t all that original. Not only that, but it sort of clashes with the ample humor provided by Specs and Carl, as well as the intentional or not humor of watching Patrick Wilson walk around like a malfunctioning terminator.
Much of the third act is spent in the spooky spirit world which remains the franchise's signature set piece. Lots of creepy rolling mists, endless shadows and the occasional spirit jumping out at you. Although, again, it wasn't really easy to follow how and why the things that happened there impacted the real world.
End result? “Insidious: Chapter 2” is a good, not great movie. It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you jump, even if the jumps feel a little less earned this time around. I’m right in the middle on it, but I’d recommend checking it out if only to fill the void left by the “Paranormal Activity” franchise this Halloween season.