Every family has to deal with its own personal demons. For the Lambert family, this struggle is just a little more literal than for most people. James Wan's "Insidious" hit theaters in 2011. Viewers followed along as Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai (Rose Byrne) discovered that their son, Dalton (Ty Simpkins), had inherited the questionable gift of astral projection. The movie ended with a chilling cliffhanger, and fans had to wait several years to discover the fate of the Lambert family. In "Insidious: Chapter 2," (watch trailer) it may come as no surprise that the family is not doing so well.
Although audiences have been waiting, barely any time has passed for the characters. After his trek into the Further, an ominous alternate dimension, Josh is increasingly distant. This may be due to the fact that he was possessed after he rescued Dalton from evil forces. Without the full support of her husband, Renai is trying hard to hold the family together. Since their old home holds some seriously unpleasant memories, the Lamberts move into the home of Josh's mother, Lorraine (Barbara Hershey). Renai soon realizes that she cannot outrun these supernatural forces quite so easily. The Lamberts have barely moved in before Renai starts dealing with weird apparitions and ominous occurrences.
Enter paranormal investigators Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), the goofy young assistants from the first film who always provide some reliable comic relief. This time, they also have the help of Carl (Steve Coulter), a paranormal expert. Renai and Lorraine are both trying to break the stranglehold that the spirit world has on their loved ones. As in most horror movies, though, the answer will not be simple. It involves a dark trek into the past to unravel complex clues. The Further is still as spooky and unwelcoming as ever.
In a horror genre that has increasingly favored gore and torture over subtle chills, Wan is becoming a refreshing presence. Although Wan has his roots in movies such as "Saw" (2004) and its many bloody sequels, "Insidious" marked a major departure for the director. Wan followed this hit with "The Conjuring" (2013). If "Insidious: Chapter 2" earned lackluster reviews from critics and fans, it's not necessarily the film's fault. It could be due to the fact that this sequel lives in the impressive shadows cast by Wan's previous successes.
Although it was not as well received as the original film, the second chapter of the franchise is still likely to delight horror fans. The movie's larger budget is evident, and Wan has had time to create a more fleshed-out vision of the Further and its unfriendly inhabitants. As a result, the movie is a little flashier than its predecessor. "Insidious" relied on quiet moments that built up to jump scares. The sequel, by showing more, loses some of the understated horror that made the original so good. Nonetheless, Wan's creepy directorial vision is evident.
"Insidious: Chapter 2" is a haunted house movie with a twist. Wan respects the horror tradition, with all its slamming doors and flickering lights. He also respects the fact that making a sequel means honoring the original and creating a standalone film at the same time. As the title suggests, the movie feels like turning the page and reading the second chapter of an exceptionally creepy book. Little details tie back to the first movie, retroactively explaining moments that may have left audiences confused in 2011.
Patrick Wilson is quickly becoming a fixture in Wan's films, and the two seem to be building a working relationship similar to that of Johnny Depp and Tim Burton. While the possessed Josh is not exactly a nuanced role, Wilson brings a capable creepiness to the screen. His wholesome good looks contrast nicely with the darkness of the plot. Byrne ends up hindered by a little too much helpless shrieking but is still a likeable presence. Coulter and Hershey are strong additions to the original cast.
Wan gets a lot of leverage out of unsettling makeup and jump scares. Though slightly predictable, he uses both these techniques very effectively. "Insidious: Chapter 2" is not going to revolutionize the genre, but Wan most likely has a long career in horror directing ahead of him. This movie probably won't be one of his masterpieces, but it is a spooky and solid entry in the franchise. Audiences who enjoyed the first film will love the second one, while new viewers will get some good scares and most likely leave the theater wanting to watch the original movie. In the end, that's the real mark of a sequel's success.