My feelings towards “Insidious: Chapter 2” are not all that different from how I felt about “Insidious.” Neither movie scared me in the way they scared my friends, and they don’t really hold a candle to the “Paranormal Activity” movies in terms of making you jump out of your seat, but I did admire their cleverness as they turned the genres they were exploring upside down and gave me something I wasn’t expecting. But moreover, the real strength of “Insidious: Chapter 2” is that it doesn’t feel like a sequel as much as it feels like a continuation of what came before it. Part of me was expecting a simple retread of the original, but I was surprised at how clever this sequel was.
It reunites the horror team of filmmaker James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell who also did the first “Insidious” movie and was also responsible for “Saw.” Now what drove me nuts about “Saw” and its sequels was not the gore (the way I see it, the gore the merrier), but the plot twists which ended the movies and left me with an enormous headache. Each movie expected me to believe that Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) could pull this or that off, and I didn’t buy any of the conclusions for a second. The “Insidious” movies, however, don’t make that same mistake, and what I admired was how certain questions from the original film end up getting answered here. Perhaps a close analysis would reveal plot holes, but both movies seem to connect together in a way that makes perfect sense.
Like “Halloween II” (whether it’s the original sequel or Rob Zombie’s), “Insidious: Chapter 2” starts off where the original ended. Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) has successfully rescued his son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) from the Further, but after a peaceful moment where the family is reunited, his wife Renai (Rose Byrne) finds that paranormal investigator Elise Rainer (Lin Shaye) has been strangled to death. It is suspected that Josh did it, but he is insistent that he did not end kill her. Soon after that, things slowly get back to normal as Josh moves his family into his mother Lorraine’s (Barbara Hershey) house, but it doesn’t take long for certain objects to move around on their own. The question is, did Josh really return from the Further, or did someone else come back in his place?
Now Wan and Whannell had a lot of playing around with the haunted house genre with the first “Insidious,” but now they are forced to up their game with this one. “Insidious: Chapter 2” is more of a domestic thriller with a bit of astral projection and time travel thrown in to mix things up. While it does deal with the same elements that made its predecessor a success, this sequel never feels like a simple repeat of the original. Both these films were made by people who have seen just about every horror movie known to man, and they have gone out of their way to subvert all those clichés we are used to seeing. With this movie, I was never entirely sure of what to expect, and that’s just the way I wanted it.
Wilson, Byrne, Hershey and Simpkins are every bit as good as they were in “Insidious,” and they don’t look like they have missed a bit between the original and the sequel. Angus Simpson and Whannell also show up again as Tucker and Specs, and they provide the comic relief this sequel needs and never overstay their welcome.
Joining the “Insidious” franchise this time around is Steve Coulter who plays Carl, Elise’s protégé in the paranormal arts. I am not familiar with Coulter’s work, but he gives a strong performance here as he works to help the Lambert family deal with what has been haunting them so viciously. It turns out he is a journeyman actor who has made many appearances in both film and television, and his veteran status serves this part well as Carl is an expert who has dealt with these situations extensively, and that makes him more than believable as someone who has seen the worst things life has to offer.
Like I said, “Insidious: Chapter 2” didn’t scare the shit out of me, but I still admired how director Wan generates a strong amount of tension and suspense throughout. Wan has actually had quite the year as this sequel follows up the surprise hit of 2013, “The Conjuring.” With each movie he does, he continues to perfect his skills in creating suspense and keeping the audience on edge. It’ll be interesting to see how things go for him when we see the final cut of the next movie he’s directing, “Fast & Furious 7.”
Some fans might complain about the lack of scares in “Insidious: Chapter 2,” but for me, I’m just glad that this sequel kept me intrigued throughout. Whether you find it terrifying or not, it’s a film that does keep you on edge from start to finish. When the movie ends, it turns out that there just might be room for another “Insidious” sequel, and there is a sequence at the end which implies that it will be a reality. But even if it doesn’t, you can be sure that the spirits (evil or otherwise) will be haunting you while you sleep.