Insidious showed to many horror fans, including Murderher De7en, that it’s still possible to make a successful PG-13 rated haunted house flick. And I believe its sequel, Insidious: Chapter 2, is an indication that it’s still possible to follow up with a pretty damn good sequel . . . even if it is still PG-13.
With the same cast, a script written by Leigh Whannel, and direction by James Wan, there’s no real wonder why Chapter 2 maintains the same vibe as its predecessor. In fact, it’s really just a continuation and deeper telling of the same ghost story with additional layers. It utilizes the same type of spooky opening credits to set the tone of the film but more importantly picks up immediately where the first film left off with the Lambert family. If you haven’t seen the first flick, this is about the time in my review where I recommend you do so. While I will attempt to keep this minimally spoiler-free for the sequel, I can’t promise anything for the first Insidious film.
The Lamberts are still haunted – not their house(s) mind you but the bodies of the family members who are talented “travelers” i.e. people who have the ability to astral project in their sleep. What’s haunting them isn’t merely an innocent or wandering spirit craving life (fortunately, it’s not Darth Maul‘s cousin either). Oh no, their haunt is carrying a shitload of sinister baggage.
At times, plot holes are filled in through explanatory dialogue (obviously, some characters just have all the right answers). But audiences are able to forgive and forget as Wan masterfully executes suspense build ups and the next scare is never too far away. Through the experiences of the Lambert family, we are taken through the “haunted house” of Insidious: Chapter 2, from scenes set in abandoned hospitals and “forbidden” secret rooms of the deceased to bathrooms and rooms filled with possessed children’s toys. While at times it may seem a bit over the top, especially in comparison to the first film, it’s apparent that the film is very self-aware. It also tips its horrific hat to various horror flicks like Psycho, Poltergeist, Blair Witch Project, and classics that came before.
The story line has multiple layers; it weaves through time and space and the “Further” in order to explain itself along with intertwining with the first Insidious in a way that will either make fans groan or go “Aaah, neat.” I’m grouped with the latter. I enjoyed the subtle and not so subtle references to the first film.
But what didn’t I like? I didn’t like the shaky hand-cam scenes. Yes, I get that it was most likely a nod to Blair Witch Project but was it necessary? No. Especially not when the first-person point of view had been filmed so seamlessly without the shaky hand-cam technique for other parts of the film. Fortunately, that camera technique was only used a couple of times, but still, I could have done without it completely.
At times, Chapter 2 let the cheese/campy element soar, particularly when the comedic relief characters, Tucker and Specs, were involved. The two ghost-hunters had bigger roles in this sequel, for better or for worse, but I actually enjoyed them. Yeah, they might be a bit bumbling and at times stereotypical (like other elements of the film), but their characters work in the grand scheme of things. In fact, they even had some applause-worthy scenes which evoked mass audience cheering in a packed theater on opening night.
Despite getting a bit more complicated and twisty-turny with the plot, Chapter 2 still uses the same classic horror tropes that the first employed — creaky doors and floors, dramatic suspense building music, cacophonous sound effects to maximize the scare tactics, use of red – a color often associated with blood, death, fear, and violence in our subversive genre, heavy fog, shadows, mirrors, the ever ominous closet . . . they are tried and true techniques that, when put together by a talented creative team, still have the ability to achieve their goal. Which is to make you or your friend scream . . . or maybe just hold onto that armchair a little bit tighter.
Boris recommends grabbing a copy of the first Insidious then get to the theaters with a group of friends to catch the second chapter while it’s still on the big screen!