Review: Insidious – Chapter 2 / Cert: 15 / Director: James Wan / Screenplay: Leigh Whannell / Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Barbara Hershey, Steve Coulter, Leigh Whannell / Release Date: January 6th
James Wan was unofficially crowned king of low-budget horror this year before suddenly shifting gears (and genres) in order to speed off into the sunset of the big budget Fast and Furious franchise. While Insidious Chapter 2 scared up more box office dollars than its predecessor, it paled in comparison to Wan's other big horror hit of 2013, The Conjuring. Wan and writer Leigh Whannell have had their run of success since working together on their debut Saw but perhaps now the relationship has run its course. Wan seems to be growing as a director while Whannell falls back on old tricks and over-explanation, failing to give the second chapter the same shiver-inducing spark that Insidious had.
Chapter 2 starts with a flashback to the Lambert Residence in 1986. The younger version of Patrick Wilson's Josh is the one being haunted, ominously followed by something dark and shadowy in all the photos of him. Even the young psychic investigators (the same characters from Insidious only played by younger actors) are scared witless, leading to an early game of 'hot and cold' that draws some typical suspense out of the scenario. Then we pick up exactly where we left off with the Lamberts under suspicion from the police for the death of Elise (Lin Shaye), the psychic last seen being strangled to death by Josh at the end of the first film.
The Lambert family move in with Josh's mother Lorraine (Hershey) while the cops treat their old home as a crime scene. Before long, pianos are mysteriously playing, doors are creaking open, Josh is definitely not himself since coming back from the spirit realm and poor old Rose Byrne is forced to walk around a different house looking terrified all over again. It is at this point that familiarity settles in, not for the last time in the film.
Specs (writer Whannell) and Tucker are still on the case but hopeless comedy sidekicks that they are, they have to get in contact with the now deceased Elise. Flashbacks and further investigations illuminate a deepening mythology and add a neat twist, but with its determination to get serious with its story, Insidious: Chapter 2 grows a bit stale. It loses much of the irresistible and unrelenting thrill ride of the first and replaces it with something less satisfying.
A mysterious woman in white makes for a creepy apparition, but the more we get to see of her, the less intriguing (and, crucially, the less scary) she becomes. Wan makes everything imposing, with looming houses and creepy children's toys in abundance, but unfortunately the more things get explained, the less you'll be biting your nails and jumping out of your seat.
Producer Oren Peli, it seems, has convinced Wan to go for some handycam scares in one scene, but other than that Insidious: Chapter 2 is classically shot, and even when it descends into a cat and mouse house-chase towards the end, Wan helms the action with wicked gusto. It is an admirable attempt to tell a deeper story and reward fans of the first film but by the end it's sadly lacking in the scare department.
Extras: Peripheral Vision – Behind the scenes / Ghostly Transformations – creating the look of the ghosts / Leigh Whannell's Insidious Journal / The Haunting of Insidious / Work in Progress – On Set Q&A / 3 Spectral Sightings Webisodes