Insidious: Chapter 2 Review
by Daniel Rester
James Wan, the Australian director behind such horror films as Saw (2004), Dead Silence (2007), and Insidious (2010), is supposedly quitting the horror genre and moving on to new things in cinema – starting with Fast & Furious 7 next year. But before saying his goodbyes to the genre, Wan has delivered two horror films this year. The first was the summer hit The Conjuring, arguably one of the director’s better films. Now we have Insidious: Chapter 2.
Chapter 2 pretty much picks up right where the last film left off, so non-fans may be lost if they go into this one blind. The Lambert family once again finds themselves haunted by evil spirits from The Further, despite Dalton (Ty Simpkins) and Josh (Patrick Wilson) returning safely. But this time there are more connections to Josh’s past, and something not quite right with the man as well.
The creepy going-ons begin to pick up when the family goes to stay with Lorraine (Barbara Hershey), Josh’s mom. Renai (Rose Byrne), his wife, soon realizes that things are still off, but Josh denies it and wants to have things get back to normal. But when things keep getting spooky, ghost hunters Specs (Leigh Whannell, who co-wrote the script with Wan) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) and a medium named Carl (Steve Coulter) arrive to help with things. There are also some connections to Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye), the medium from the first film.
It actually may be a good thing that Wan is leaving the horror genre, because the director’s efforts seem smaller here compared to some other projects. With Chapter 2, it’s as if Wan is bored with doing the same stuff, lacking with the inventive touches he applied to old tricks in previous films. The director certainly knows how to build atmosphere and use creative camerawork to his advantage, but most of the scares this time around come off as more ordinary and laughable than frightening. There are still plenty of moments with false alarm jumps, creaky doors that need some WD-40, creepy whispering, etc., but most of it is all for naught.
Whannell and Wan have a few interesting ideas within the script, including some ingenious connections to the first film, but most of the writing is filled with straightforward horror trappings. It also doesn’t help that much of the dialogue is clunky, usually delivered by the cast in an unenthusiastic manner. Such flaws are especially true of the beginning, which feels like a TV movie affair and nearly derails the whole thing right away.
Even the cast can’t muster up much. Whannell and Sampson are entertaining as the returning ghost hunters, but they get more screen time than the story really calls for. And Coulter is strong as the new character, Carl. But the rest of the cast is meh, or at least they come off that way. Byrne is wide-eyed throughout, to little effect, while Hershey and Shaye seem bored. Wilson is pretty good for the most part, putting on his best crazy Jack Nicholson face at times and going for it.
Chapter 2 has plenty of mood, some excellent old-fashioned sets, and one hair-raising moment involving a closet and a can, but it all isn’t enough to save the film; the writing, direction, and acting are all just too regular to forgive. Wan had some great entries in the horror genre, with my favorite of his still being Saw, but he goes out on a disappointing note here if Chapter 2 really is to be his last horror film.
Rating: 2 out of 4 stars (Grade Equivalent for Me: C)