Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)
James Wan is a clever film maker who knows and fully understands the mechanics of his trade. Perhaps a little too well, because therein lies the problem with Insidious: Chapter 2. It is a succession of well-crafted set pieces that seamlessly follows on from the previous movie. Yet it is a little too enamoured with its own cleverness. I found myself frequently praising the director after a well-constructed shock, instead of revelling in the unease a horror movie is supposed to create. A great deal of scares and jumps are due to the clever sound design, superb editing and the creepy score by by Joseph Bishara, who previously collaborated with director James Wan on the first movie as well as The Conjuring. Fortunately, the film still provides viewers with a family that are likeable and an ensemble cast that help lift the story beyond its somewhat formulaic limitations. As I've mentioned before, Wan has an eye for depicting families.
The original film’s twist ending suggested that the spirit which haunted Josh (Patrick Wilson) throughout out his life had finally possessed him. Insidious: Chapter 2 picks up the story immediately and the story has to deal with the narrative complexities that have been imposed upon it by the previous instalment. However, the movie expedites the plot quite well and we see via flashbacks how paranormal investigator Elise (Lin Shaye) first met Josh as a child and the subsequent investigation by the police regarding the exact circumstances of her death. The story then focuses on the Lambert family, who are now living with Grandma Lorraine’s (Barbara Hershey). It's not long before Josh's wife Renai (Rose Byrne) is seeing and hearing spirit manifestations, once again centred around their young son Dalton (Ty Simpkins).
As I mention earlier, there is a lot of well thought out and smart aspects to Insidious: Chapter 2. A key scene from the first movie is revisited and explored from a totally different perspective. It certainly adds to the sense of continuity between the two movies. There is also another foray into the "further" but this time with a subtle role reversal as it is Dalton this time, trying to rescue his Father. Despite the Scooby Doo like sub-plot as the family and paranormal investigators delve into the reasons behind the hauntings, there is still plenty of solid scares to be had. The protagonists are still well defined and the suburban setting adds to the unsettling atmosphere. Because the balance between scares and running time is equitable, most audiences may overlook the increasing silliness of the central story during the final act.
There is a tipping point in Insidious: Chapter 2, where the audience has a choice of whether to roll with the plot developments or not. It is to the credit of actor Patrick Wilson, that his performance does much to carry the movie forward after this point. Fans may also be disappointed to learn that the story this time round is more to do with the creepy old lady ghost, rather than the Darth Maul lookalike Demon. However, director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell (Saw, Dead Silence) still manage to craft a disturbing and unsettling experience, which eschews the obligatory clinical horror of recent years. These modern homages to the classic haunted house genres (think Legend of the Hell House and Poltergeist) are a laudable undertaking. For the more casual views Insidious: Chapter 2 will prove a scary experience. For the more jaded horror fan there is still a lot to enjoy in this well-crafted genre outing.