The first Insidious film took viewers through a new vision of the traditional haunted house mythology. Instead of a house being haunted, it’s a human child that gets inflicted with demons from the afterlife that begin terrorizing those around him. And while the end of the original film left many questions unanswered, viewers left the film feeling satisfied. Shocking, original, and scary enough to be considered by some a modern horror masterpiece, Insidious was a hit.
A couple years later, and we’re now brought back to a very familiar place with a sequel trying too hard to live up to the original. Unfortunately, in their attempt to make a sequel out of what should have stayed a classic one-off hit, the filmmakers employ the same scare tactics, which fall flat. This is nothing new in today’s modern horror film industry that churns out sequels like fast food. Especially when the film comes from the company that is now in production on its fifthParanormal Activity film – can we just call it Normal Activity at this point?
Director James Wan is proving to be one of the best horror film auteurs of his generation. Whether it is with gore (Saw) or ghosts (Insidious), Wan knows just the right recipe for genre success. However, while Insidious 2 brings us back to the style we loved from the first, it isn’t original enough to make the same impact of its predecessor. Interestingly enough, Wan recently stated he was done with the horror genre as a director, perhaps he checked out a bit too early?
The film begins immediately following the events that led to the shocking death of Elise (Lin Shaye). The Lambert family moves back to Josh’s (Patrick Wilson) house where he was terrorized as a youth, a questionable decision considering Josh’s terrifying past there. As Renai (Rose Byrne) begins to question her husband’s intentions, Josh’s mother Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) seeks to uncover the truth behind Elise’s death by employing the help of Elise’s friend from her past and the comical Ghostbuster duo from the original, Tucker and Specs (Leigh Whannell, also the film’s co-writer).
A ghost hunt wouldn’t be complete without a night trip to an abandoned hospital. Let’s throw a serial killer’s dilapidated house in there too. You can forget about yelling to the screen “don’t go do in there!” They go in there in practically every scene.
The film does make an effort to be original on a few occasions, even attempting to piece together the puzzle by adding a time travel element (yes… time travelling ghosts). While not completely convincing as a plot device, it was at least something new for once.
There is also a lot of humor throughout this film. Tucker and Specs are comic relief when comic relief is needed most, and their banter takes tension off an otherwise morbid film. A scene mimicking Jack’s ax wielding scene in The Shining didn’t garner any laughs though, so it’s safe to say the film succeeded at being scary where it had to be. And that may be all that matters for people to come back for seconds – or thirds.
** (Two Stars)
Insidious Chapter 2 opens nationwide Friday the 13th. Watch the trailer here.