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Insidious Chapter 2

2013 | 105 min | PG-13 | 2.39:1

Insidious Chapter 2


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Theatrical release date

 13 September, 2013
 13 September, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

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Insidious Chapter 2


Screenshots from Insidious: Chapter 2 Blu-ray

Insidious Chapter 2 Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, September 13, 2013

Some films just don’t need sequels. 2011’s “Insidious” was a fine fright machine with plenty of atmosphere, a corker of a plot, and a genre drive to rattle its audience with a surefire burst of scary material. Its conclusion wasn’t open-ended, but it was definitive in its idea of inescapability, goosing the audience one last time before the end credits rolled. However, the movie was a hit, reviving director James Wan’s wilting career, opening the door for a follow-up. Admirably, “Insidious: Chapter 2” is determined to transform a one-note story into a franchise, but the energy is misspent, wasted a continuation that’s labored and dull, with only a few crisp ideas to aid digestion. Instead of furthering the premise to the next level of engagement, the production scrambles to make sense of itself, with a desire to pave a cleaner path to “Chapter 3.”

With paranormal investigator Elise (Lin Shaye) secretly strangled to death by Josh (Patrick Wilson), there’s chaos to be sorted out. As the cops struggle to piece together the crime, Josh is left to reclaim his family, with wife Renai (Rose Byrne) wary of her husband’s comforting tone. Living with Josh’s mother Lorraine (Barbara Hershey), Renai is tormented by a fresh wave of malevolent spirits threatening her children, including Dalton (Ty Simpkins), pushed into a full-blown panic when it becomes clear that nothing has been resolved, with evil forces out to kill the family. To the rescue are Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), Elise’s assistants, who team up with a former employee, Carl (Steve Coulter), to master the mysteries of The Further, the spiritual realm where Josh’s human essence is trapped, pulling Elise’s ghost back into duty as they investigate what exactly is possessing the once mild-mannered dad.

“Insidious” wasn’t a simple picture, but it had distinct goals in mind. Screenwriter Leigh Whannell cooked up a haunted house experience with a domestic tilt, conjuring a “Poltergeist” vibe as Wan worked out his demon visits and assorted cheap scare opportunities. “Chapter 2” aims to be “The Shining,” stripping away the exploratory elements of the original film to concentrate on Josh’s soul-splitting crisis, and how his gradually eroding sense of stability threatens his family. However, Whannell isn’t content with simplicity, boiling down the haunting to a routine of chilling stalking sequences and quivering reactions. Instead, he’s eager to build a mythology around the old woman seen in the original feature, fighting to build a backstory to answer questions I doubt anyone had about “Insidious.” The effort opens with a clumsy flashback to Elise (Wan has Shaye dub her voice over a younger actress) and Josh’s original introduction in the 1980s and goes downhill from there, miscalculating the potential of this haunting. Time is also wasted laboring over is-he-or-isn’t-he questions of possession with Josh, as the audience is already fully aware of the man’s villainous intentions, wasting 30 minutes of screentime catching Renai and Lorraine up to the established threat.

“Chapter 2” takes a considerable amount of time getting up to speed, redirecting the focus of the movie away from The Further and into the home, studying efforts to expose the true nature of Josh’s ordeal as the family struggles to reclaim harmony. What Whannell cooks up here isn’t especially inspiring, slogging through 45 minutes of explanation and lackluster scare sequences involving Renai and the kids, while comic relief from the ghostbusters misses its mark. Wan doesn’t showcase the same spunk as before, wearing the material like a wet robe, unable to provide the visual stimulation required to keep momentum going. “Chapter 2” often feels like one long backtrack intended to build a screen empire out of something that was only intended to work once, bending over backwards to reset the rules and move on to future sequels.

Indeed, there’s a set-up for “Chapter 3” at the conclusion of the film, tacked on the end of a passable second half that highlights a few crisp ideas worth a look, including Carl’s use of dice to communicate with the dead. Elise also returns to the fray, albeit in ghostly form, but her pluck is welcome in a movie that could use the vigor. Highlights are fleeting in the half-baked effort, which quickly returns to a schedule of fumbled chills as Whannell works out the details of the story. “Insidious: Chapter 2” doesn’t feature the finesse or the imagination of the original film, wrongly assuming audiences are hungry for an expansion of exposition, not an exquisite escalation of fear.

Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Barbara Hershey, Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell
Director: James Wan

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