Insidious : Chapter 2 (2013)

Directed By: James Wan
Written By: James Wan
  Leigh Whannell
Starring: Patrick Wilson
  Rose Byrne
  Ty Simpkins
  Lin Shaye
Insidious : Chapter 2

Following the disheartening, yet predictable, mainstream success of the incredibly derivative Insidious, along with this year’s far more accomplished The Conjuring, James Wan returns with yet another ghost story, about a haunted house, a tortured family, and not much else.

The events of Insidious: Chapter 2, to give it its full name (surely that title in itself is terrifying – how many chapters are there going to be!?) take place directly after those of its predecessor. The fantastic Patrick Wilson returns as Josh, a decent family man possessed by some sort of woman in black rip-off, who looks a bit less rubbish than she of the recent Daniel Radcliffevehicle.

His wife, played again by the emotionless Rose Byrne, refuses to believe that he’s responsible for the death of medium Elyse (Lin Shaye), in spite of glaring evidence. Meanwhile, their two sons are trying to recover from past events, but are still seeing and hearing things in the darkness, despite the fact that the family have shacked up with Josh’s mother in her big, old Victorian mansion (of course).

Insidious: Chapter 2 is an incredibly obvious, very dumb film, in which everything is explained and nothing is left spooky and weird for very long. It’s so derivative; it almost turns into a game of spot the horror reference. Perhaps some of it is meant as homage, but given how cheesy and carelessly certain things are thrown about, it’s difficult to see any of it as complimentary.

As the film opens, a heavy-handed prologue, details how Josh, as a child, was cured of his “gift” by Elyse. It’s an incredibly perfunctory method of setting the scene that is, rather annoyingly, harked back to constantly throughout the film – though anything that keeps the great Lin Shaye onscreen is to be applauded, even if the seventies décor feels about as realistic as it did in The Conjuring.

Somehow, it even involves an element of time travel, during which one character notes how something that didn’t make sense previously now does, which is, quite frankly, embarrassing, and indicative of a story that thinks it’s much cleverer than it actually is.

Thankfully, this time around, there’s no Darth Maul, with Freddy Krueger gloves – the phantoms that haunt the family are very real and, crucially, quite terrifying. Along with the aforementioned woman in black, there is a shrieking, very intimidating, woman in white (played by Danielle Bisutti, of Curse Of Chucky), while a proper back-story makes each of them feel a little less ghost train, than those in Insidious.

Without these, and Patrick Wilson trying his best to make the keep things moving, the film would be worth even less time than the latest Paranormal Activity instalment (though producer Oren Peli is onboard here, and his influence is sadly obvious throughout).

Insidious: Chapter 2 is, for the most part, a derivative, wannabe classic horror film that employs everything from creepy kids to screeching violins to get the audience jumping out of their seats. What’s perhaps most surprising is that, more often than not, it is very atmospheric, creepy and, at times, genuinely frightening.

Unfortunately, its intentions are obvious and it isn’t nearly as complex or disturbing as it wants, or needs, to be, to elevate it above its much-maligned, paranormal-themed peers. What saves Chapter 2, aside from some decent jump scares, is placing Patrick Wilson’s character at the forefront, often using him as the catalyst for creepy, unexplainable occurrences.

Though his wife refuses to believe he’s a threat, the audience knows she’s wrong, which allows for some great moments of tension, especially towards the end, when he is confronted by another paranormal investigator. Much like Insidious, there is a lot to enjoy about Chapter 2. It feels, once again, like a creaky old ghost train, rumbling along in the dark as various things pop up to spook us.

Unlike its predecessor, the reliance here is on substance, not style. Unfortunately, it’s everyone else’s substance and, much like a ghost train, it feels stale and exploitative because, when the lights are turned on, there is nothing really there. It doesn’t go anywhere or try anything particularly new and, though it’s suitably entertaining for the most part, it’s not in the least bit memorable.

A perfect example of a horror film made purely for mainstream audiences, which they will no doubt eat up, especially since a third chapter has already been confirmed, for those who know Wan is capable of better, and who enjoyed The Conjuring, in particular, Insidious: Chapter 2 won’t make much of an impact. It rumbles along, with things popping out here and there, to its predictable conclusion, and then leaves us off, feeling like we’ve had a little bit of fun, but ultimately wasted our time and money in the process. Next stop, Paranormal Activity 20.

Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

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