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Blu-ray Review: 'Insidious: Chapter 2'

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The Film:

The original “Insidious” was a horror film that was on the brink of being recommendable until it fell apart in its final act. It had the necessary creepy atmosphere and plenty of surprises (aka loud bangs on the soundtrack), but when it came to the silliness of its plot and the over-extended finale that featured one of the main characters wandering around for what seemed like ages, it got held back just a little too much. While the original film didn’t work overall, I welcomed the idea of a sequel because they had done so many things right before. An atmosphere like that doesn’t come along with every horror film, so my thinking was that, if they could hammer out a storyline that isn’t quite so laughable and cut back on the meandering, they could really have something here. Apparently this was advice that the filmmakers were not quite ready to take to heart.

“Insidious: Chapter 2” picks up right where the original left off. Josh (Patrick Wilson) has returned from the “The Further” after rescuing his son, Dalton (Ty Sympkins). His wife, Renai (Rose Byrne), had discovered that what came back wasn’t Josh, but a malevolent spirit that has been trying to possess him since childhood. With their major source of help, Elise (Lin Shaye), now dead, she must turn to Specs (Leigh Whannell), Tucker (Angus Simpson), and a new paranormal investigator, Carl (Steve Coulter), for assistance. While they investigate, the changes in Josh become more and more noticeable, eventually leading to a final desperate mission to rescue the real Josh from his captivity in “The Further.”

“Insidious” might have been a little off the mark, but “Insidious: Chapter 2” ends up diving right off of it without any consideration towards making a scary, engaging, or thoughtful horror film. Instead of taking the opportunity to improve upon the issues from the first film, screenwriter Leigh Whannell (along with co-story writer/director James Wan) have decided to go about making a sequel the lazy way, which includes retreading much of the original film while throwing a lot of unnecessary backstory into the mix.

You may recall that the first “Insidious” told the story of how Dalton got lost in “The Further” and how his father eventually goes on a rescue mission to get him back. This time, we have Josh getting trapped in the other realm while everyone else tries to figure out what to do about it. It might not have been such a bad storyline had it focused solely on that, but for some reason Wan and Whannell felt the need to fill us in on who the spirit was by having the paranormal investigators go on a pointless ghost hunt that ends up feeling like a long, dull episode of “Ghost Adventures.”

Another issue the first film faced was how silly it got by using the idea of “astral projection,” but looking back, that seems much more tame than what the sequel attempts to do. Not only are parts of the discovered backstory very silly, but they also try to mix the previous film up with its sequel by trying to explain how Josh caused some of the paranormal events in the original story. Having people leave their bodies to travel to another realm was one thing, but trying to throw in time travel just makes it even more laughable than before.

Finally, you may also recall how the third act of the first film was basically Josh wandering around in “The Further” trying to find Dalton. Unfortunately, the filmmakers have decided to use the same concept by having Josh and his companions wandering around once again in an attempt to get out. It should come as no surprise that it once again becomes quite tedious. They try to make it a little more exciting this time around by mixing it up with scenes of possessed Josh attacking his family, but it’s not nearly enough to make up for the monotony of watching the characters wander around the dark and shadowy realm as they try to escape.

As you can probably guess, the ending sets it up for yet another sequel, but I highly doubt anyone’s going to be dying to see it after the mess they made of this second outing. Then again, maybe they’ll finally surprise us all by heeding the necessary advice, to which we now have to add the much-needed warning about repeating themselves. If they have an original idea that will take these characters to different places (physically and developmentally), then perhaps they should try to make up for this dismal excuse for a sequel. If not, then they should bow out now before they make things any worse.

Video/Audio:

The film is presented in a 2.39:1, 1080p transfer of pretty good quality. Most of the film takes place in very dark locations, but the picture remains sharp and clear despite the low lighting and washed-out look of the production design. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is on the very soft side, so you’ll be tempted to turn it up right away, but be warned, the surprise stings on the soundtrack are very loud, so do this cautiously. Otherwise, it’s satisfactory enough to give you an easy listening experience.

Special Features:

Peripheral Vision: Behind the Scenes: A decent featurette featuring interviews with cast and crew discussing the project. Features lots of behind the scenes footage and info about the making of the film. Worth a watch.

Ghostly Transformations: A look at the creation of the ghosts in the film, including makeup and wardrobe. Another one that’s worth taking a look at.

Haunted Hospital: On Location: A look at the hospital where some of the scenes were filmed. There’s not really anything to be learned here, so it’s easily skipable.

Leigh Whannell’s Insidious Journal: Another decent look behind the scenes with screenwriter Leigh Whannell, shot during the making of the film. It’s not as in-depth as the first featurette, but it’s still worth sitting through.

Work in Progress: On Set Q&A: A Q&A with the cast, writer, and director, discussing various aspects of the film including the story and characters. There’s some pretty good in-depth info to be learned here, so it’s definitely worth watching.

“Insidious: Spectral Sighting” 3-Part Webisode: A pointless inclusion that has Specs, Tucker, and Elise investigating a haunted house. Again it feels like a really dull episode of “Ghost Adventures.” It begs the question of why they would want to include a featurette that mimics one of the weakest parts of the film. Easily skipable.

Conclusion:

While most of these featurettes are worth watching, it isn’t nearly enough to bring this release up to a recommendation. “Insidious: Chapter 2” has a number of issues, chief among them the fact that it recycles far too much of the first film, turning this into a dreadfully dull ghost story with no chills. They try their hardest to bring back the atmosphere that had made the first film partially successful, but an atmosphere is nothing without the firm foundation of an engaging narrative and well-developed characters. Without them, the film is doomed to wander in “The Further” forever.

Score: 2.5/5

Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.

Recent Blu-ray/DVD releases: Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, Elysium, The Hunt, Touchy Feely, The Rooftop, Drinking Buddies, Inpractical Jokers: Season One, Planes, Paranoia, The To Do List, Blackfish, Paradise, White House Down, Grown Ups 2, Girl Most Likely, Robotech: The Complete Set, The Way, Way Back

Now playing in theaters: Inside Llewyn Davis, American Hustle, Saving Mr. Banks, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Out of the Furnace, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Dallas Buyers Club, Thor: The Dark World, Ender's Game, Carrie, Kill Your Darlings, Gravity

Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.

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