Twitter Plot Summary: Picking up directly from the end of Insidious, there’s more ghostly goings on with the Lambert family.
Director: James Wan
Key Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Barbara Hershey, Steve Coulter, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Andrew Astor, Danielle Bisutti,
Five Point Summary:
1. Cliffhanger ending – swiftly resolved. Kind of.
2. The police really don’t have much to say about this, do they?
3. Creeping around an old hospital and an old house. So cliché…
4. It’s all gone a bit Sleepaway Camp…
5. Erm, okay then. Looks like we’re getting another film.
Okay, before reading ahead on this review, there may be spoilers relating to the first film, as it’s difficult to review this without making heavy references to the original. If you haven’t seen the original then I’d recommend doing so before watching Chapter 2 and then reading this review, otherwise you might spoil it for yourself. All sorted? Great.
Insidious ended with a cliffhanger, with Lin Shaye’s Elise strangled to death by the spirit that has spent years trying to take over Josh Lambert’s (Wilson) body. Whilst the police investigate the murder of Elise (and don’t get involved too much, surprisingly), Renai Lambert (Byrne) and Josh’s mum Lorraine (Hershey) are once again followed by spirits either trying to communicate with them from the other side or generally trying to freak them out. There’s also the small matter of Josh not acting the same as he did before he was sent into The Further to find his son. Whilst Renai is busy trying to work out if her husband is actually possessed (note: he is), her mother in law joins forces with the bumbling paranormal investigators of Specs and Tucker (Whannell and Sampson, respectively), and Carl (Coulter), an old friend of Elise’s who uses lettered dice to communicate with those beyond the grave and incidentally has an impressive beard. They get the Scooby Doo part of the narrative by investigating an abandoned hospital and an old house, Paranormal Activity style, and find out the real reason behind the malevolent spirits’ intentions.
As you might expect, there’s little in terms of character development – Rose Byrne in particular, despite being the main character for all intents and purposes, only goes so far as screaming a lot and being thrown around the room. It’s the same for Patrick Wilson, although he does get to have a bit of fun in his possessed state. You could argue that the characters were developed in the first film so we don’t need to see them progress further, but even in the first Insidious the closest we got to character development was Josh believing Renai. There’s actual funnies for paranormal investigators Specs and Tucker this time round, designed to add levity from the scares. Except… there aren’t really that many scares. It seems most of those aspects are left to the first film, whilst this sequel focuses on expanding the narrative and explaining the reason why a particular spirit was after Josh Lambert when he was younger.
Thus, as far as being a scary film goes it’s not as impressive as the opening entry in the series, pushing more focus on the expanded narrative and plugging gaps established in the first film. It also sets up a possible third entry in the series, the implication of which is that there’s something even more evil and sinister lurking in the shadows of The Further, but we’ll see what the future brings. I also understand from some reviews that Chapter 2 riffs on many of the same scares as featured in The Conjuring earlier this year, but as I’ve not seen that film yet I’m not in a position to comment. Even so, a film should be judged on its own merits and, despite the relative low number of actual scares there are several elements that work well, and the story whilst somewhat convoluted and nonsensical is, surprisingly, reasonably solid even if it feels like it’s been padded out. Unfortunately there’s a number more elements that do not work (character logic, the whole Sleepaway Camp vibe), and the skeptic in me knows that the more films you make in a series, the more you suffer from the law of diminishing returns. Seeing as Insidious Chapter 3 seems inevitable, it does not fill me with confidence going forward.
Favourite scene: Renai realises something isn’t quite right and walks around the lounge, then an apparition appears behind her from nowhere. Nice editing.
Quote: “If she sees you in here she’ll make me kill you.”
Silly Moment: After being drugged and missing all the action, Tucker bursts into the room like a badly realised kung fu master, all too late.