NOTE: This review assumes that readers have already seen the first “Insidious” film, if they have not this review will spoil the ending of the first film.
“Insidious: Chapter 2,” which was released today, September 13, 2013, picks up right where the original film ended, with Renai Lambert (Rose Byrne) discovering the corpse of murdered medium Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye), who appears to have been murdered by her husband Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson). After a police investigation determines that the fingerprints lifted from Elise’s neck were not Josh’s, the Lamberts are free to return to their abnormal lives, which are once again plagued by paranormal occurrences and otherworldly horrors.
Meanwhile, Elise’s former assistants Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) return to work with an experienced medium named Carl (Steve Coulter) in an effort to communicate with their former mentor to uncover the mystery behind her murder. However, upon further discovery the team finds that Elise’s death is inextricably tied to the horrific events surrounding the Lambert family.
This interwoven narrative easily allows “Chapter 2” to differentiate itself from its predecessor, and it establishes a complex and thorough storyline that perfectly complements the original film. However, the two very different plotlines make it somewhat difficult to get engaged in the story – at times the film feels like a psychological thriller centered on the terrors of the Lambert household on the difficulties they face trying to get a grasp of what’s happening, while at other times viewers are sucked into a paranormal horror-mystery centered on Elise’s team and their dive into the history of the terrifying power that killed Elise.
Taken as a whole, the first two chapters of the “Insidious” series form a complete, unbroken and brilliantly complex story with more than a few shocking twists. “Insidious 2” answers all of the unanswered questions fans had at the end of the first film, which for many fans will be worth the ticket price.
Director James Wan carefully selected the new setting for the film – Josh’s childhood home – and depicted it in a more ominous and unnerving light, which is guaranteed to send chills through the audience. The interwoven plot lines result in a less creepy and uneasy experience than many fans would hope for, but the horrifying moments are memorable and exciting enough to make the overall experience worthwhile. In an effort to avoid unveiling any of the film’s surprises, the beginning of the film struggles at times to keep the action moving and at times the dialogue seems stilted, but the pay-off makes the experience worthwhile. Wan expertly transforms creepy situations into terrifying ones without relying on traditional horror movie clichés and gimmicks.
Furthermore, the cast members do an excellent job portraying their characters, and the main cast members are given complex new angles and character arcs to depict in this second chapter. Patrick Wilson does a brilliant job portraying the father of the household in a toned-down version of Jack Nicholson’s legendary “Jack Torrance” while the supporting cast members bring their expanded roles to life in interesting, exciting and realistic ways.
The most notable and memorable supporting characters, the comedic relief ghost-hunter team of Specs (Whannell) and Tucker (Sampson) are given deeper roles and manage to portray their characters as believable, interesting and essential members of the cast while simultaneously functioning as amusing and distracting side characters.
Despite the film’s ability to weave the different elements of the film together to create an engaging and thrilling film, some viewers will undoubtedly be turned off by the more psychological/thriller aspects of the film. The epic third act of the film feels more like “The Shining” than it does like “The Conjuring,” and although it makes for a tense, exciting and shocking viewing experience, it lacks the truly horrifying elements that will keep viewers awake for weeks. “Insidious Chapter 2” acts as a thrilling and satisfying conclusion to one of the most memorable horror sagas in recent memory, but it does so in a way that diverges from many standard horror films, which makes it a film that may not appeal to all viewers.