‘Insidious: Chapter 2’ is Mere Ghost of Original

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Average: 5 (1 vote)
HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 2.0/5.0
Rating: 2.0/5.0

CHICAGO – Writer Leigh Whannell and director James Wan reunite for “Insidious: Chapter 2,” a repetitive, cluttered, just silly variation on the first movie that will feel like a step back for anyone who admired Wan’s notable advancement as a filmmaker in this summer’s stellar “The Conjuring.” It may seem unfair to compare but with that great ghost story so fresh in viewer’s minds, failing to note how this film does many of the same things but so much more ineffectively is going to be impossible. It’s a cover version, like so many sequels, but not just of the film before it in the series but a smash hit horror movie that makes it feel even more inferior.

One has to give Wan & Whannell a bit of credit for trying to solve the common problem of the haunted house sequel inherent in the question, “They got haunted TWICE?” The follow-up to the 2010 hit lives up to its name, really running as a continuation of the first film, although Whannell makes the mistake of not really fulfilling on that promise by going back to so many of the concepts and set-pieces from the first movie. It’s a continuation in storytelling that still somehow feels like a remake but with none of the fresh approach of the first movie. Some of Wan’s ability to craft an effective scare shines through the awful script but even the talented cast is sucked into the vortex of awful writing.

Insidious: Chapter 2
Insidious: Chapter 2
Photo credit: Film District

“Insidious: Chapter 2” is just a bit off from the very beginning (and sometimes more than a bit). We start in 1986 with a young Elise (Lindsay Seim, but in one of the dumbest decisions since Jaden Smith’s accent since “After Earth,” dubbed over with Lin Shaye’s voice) investigating the haunting of young Josh Lambert (later to be played by Patrick Wilson). Remember, as we learned last time, Josh has the power that his son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) does as well – to cross the yellow line that separates our world from the realm of the undead. Like Dalton, he was also haunted at a young age, working with Elise Rainier and her pal Carl (later played by Steve Coulter). And the haunting isn’t over.

At the end of “Insidious,” Josh came back from the other side and Elise was dead. But he didn’t come back the same. Josh is acting funny, refusing to respond to Renai’s (Rose Byrne) concerns that the haunting from the first film is far from over. Poor Rose Byrne is stuck with scene after scene of shocked responses to sounds in her house – doors creaking, pianos playing, toys going on, etc. “Insidious: Chapter 2” contains no first act – it’s immediate haunting and so Wan & Whannell have to stretch the ghostly scenes to the point of breaking and rely on character and realism created three years ago. It reaches the point of parody and produces unintentional laughter in the audience when poor Renai sees the ghostly figure in her living room for the fifteenth time in the first half-hour.

Insidious: Chapter 2
Insidious: Chapter 2
Photo credit: Film District

It turns out that Josh isn’t who he used to be. Here’s where “Insidious: Chapter 2” could have gotten interesting. The haunted father with a special son – perhaps that sounds familiar? When I realized that “Insidious: Chapter 2” was going to borrow liberally from “The Shining” (and stay tuned to the site next week for an early review of Steven King’s highly-anticipated sequel, “Doctor Sleep”), I got a little excited. And then that excitement was deflated by Whannell, who likes to pepper in themes and homages as a writer but never develops them. While “The Conjuring” represented a notable step forward for Wan in his use of sound, perspective, and the other elements needed for a good ghost story, it also saw him not working with Whannell. Almost every problem in “Chapter 2” can be traced back to a silly, ineffective script.

Almost. Byrne is way more ineffective here than in the first film, largely because she’s not playing a character as much as a subject of abuse. It’s all wide-eyed panic and nonsensical scenes where no one seems to listen to her. Wilson gets interesting by the final act, when he’s really falling apart, but his early scenes of menace are just silly. And even the comic relief provided by Whannell and Angus Sampson is overdone here.

There are a few moments: Moving dice, sheeted bodies, a fun twisty narrative that ties back into a scene from the first film. But “Insidious: Chapter 2” is nothing more than that. People will walk out talking about a cool scene or two but with little interest in “Chapter 3.” And then they’ll go watch “The Conjuring” again and correctly forget this movie even exists.

“Insidious: Chapter 2” stars Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Barbara Hershey, Steve Coulter, Leigh Whannell, and Angus Sampson. It was written by Whannell and James Wan and directed by Wan. It opens on September 13, 2013.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

Content Director

david griffin's picture

Insidious 2

Absolutely, I felt as though I was watching a mystery movie because they were solving answers and adding unnecessary ones on top of that. It kinda ruined the first with all that predictable nonsense. And your are right, I talked about maybe one or two scenes when I left but that was it. Your review is right on the money. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK, LOVE YOUR REVIEWS!!!!!

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