With 2011's Insidious, Blumhouse Productions laid the groundwork for a new horror series, creating an original-ish world of ghosts and possession and psychics in which to play. Generally, trying to start a franchise from installment one is a risky proposition, although it this case, the studio was only gambling with 1.5 million dollars, which is positively thrifty for Hollywood. That investment paid off with a nearly 100-million-dollar box office take, and so a sequel was assured. This is the intriguing new possibility in the industry: tiny-budgeted films that can turn a big profit by appealing to the right audience. I am, unfortunately, not the right audience for movies like Insidious, or its newly-released sequel, Insidious: Chapter 2.
There's a place for movies like these. They are manufactured to appeal both to young people looking to be thrilled on a date and horror mavens who thirst for a mythology to sink their teeth into. This film, which picks up immediately where the previous one left off, seems to require some knowledge of that first installment to fully make sense. I haven't seen Insidious (I read its Wiki entry), but it wasn't difficult to pick up on the rules of this world, nor the history of the characters.
Insidious left off with family man Josh (Patrick Wilson) possessed by an evil spirit in the course of rescuing his son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) from the ghostly world of "The Further." Now, his wife Renai (Rose Byrne) suspects that something is amiss, especially since paranormal activity has not ceased to plague the family despite all they went through to rid themselves of it in the first film. Meanwhile, Josh's mother Lorraine (Barbara Hershey), along with psychic Carl (Steve Coulter) investigates clues sent to them from the beyond by the newly-deceased Elise (Lin Shaye) as to the identity of the spirit causing all the trouble.
More than anything else, Insidious: Chapter 2 comes across as stunningly unprofessional. Such is the weakness of cheaply-done digital photography. There are moments in this movie that honestly look no better than a daytime soap. It's downright ugly. If it weren't for the presence of so many established actors, the film would be indistinguishable from student work. And those actors aren't doing the movie - or themselves - any favors. They're either blank (Byrne, the kids, Coulter) or hysterically overwrought (Wilson, Shaye).
Of course, since this is a horror film, all other considerations are subordinate to the scares. And if it had any good horror to offer, then Insidious 2 might be worthwhile in spite of everything else about it. But not only is it not scary, but it doesn't really seem to be trying to be much of the time. After a boogity-boogity prologue, the movie settles into a strange rut for a while, with a lot of characters hemming and hawing over whether or not there's anything supernatural about. Once the action picks up, the film moves along at a lightly, inoffensively enjoyable clip. It feels shorter than its 105 minutes, to its credit. But the movie almost never does more than jolt the audience. Every scare is painfully telegraphed.
Insidious is on the forefront of a new film production model, but in all other respects, there's nothing to separate it from the horror flick pack. Like its predecessor, it ends with a blatant hook for another sequel, but I'm not terribly compelled to find out what happens next. But like I said, this isn't a movie for me. The kids will probably get exactly what they're looking for out of it.