Ghosts and ghouls return for Insidious: Chapter 2
The haunting of the Lambert family continues in ‘Insidious: Chapter 2,’ a true continuation that cleverly demands you see the first film.
Back in 2010, director James Wan introduced us to the Lambert family in the supernatural/possession/haunted house flick Insidious. It’s been three years in real time, but only a few hours have passed between that movie and the new Insidious: Chapter 2. Yes, the film is a true continuation of the first movie, and I can’t stress enough how important it is to have seen the first movie before seeing this one. It’s also very difficult to review a movie like this without giving too much away, so we’ll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum.
The story picks up not long after the events of the first film, with Renai Lambert (Rose Byrne) at the police station trying to convince the police, and herself, that her husband Josh (Patrick Wilson) did not strangle Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye), the medium called in to help them resolve the haunting terrorizing the family. Of course, the first film ended with a cliffhanger that left everyone assuming that Josh was not really Josh, at least not on the inside.
After the Lamberts flee their second home to take shelter with Josh’s mother Lorraine (Barbara Hershey), the haunting continues, seemingly focused on Renai this time. Lorraine believes her, but Josh just wants her to ignore the problem in the hopes that it will go away. After a violent encounter with a woman in white, Lorraine contacts Elise’s assistants Specs and Tucker (Leigh Wannell and Angus Sampson) to see what they can find. They end up bringing in an old associate of Elise’s, Carl (Steve Coulter), to help determine why the haunting persists and they all realize that Josh did not come back from The Further when he went to rescue his son … but something else did.
Again, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to watch Insidious before venturing out to see Chapter 2. There’s no real recap of the first film, but there are many callbacks to the events of the first film – including an entire scene where we get to see what was really happening – as well as to Josh’s childhood experiences with a spirit known as the Bride in Black that Elise wiped from his memory with hypnosis (the Bride in Black was seen briefly in the first film). Having just watched the first film days before the screening, I found it truly beneficial to have all of that fresh in my mind.
After really enjoying James Wan’s The Conjuring, I was a bit let down by Insidious. I felt the spirits were a bit too cartoony and the egregious use of overly loud music cues to make you jump just pisses me off. Perhaps Wan learned a lesson from the relatively quiet The Conjuring because he manages to strike a pretty happy balance between that and Insidious. Insidious: Chapter 2 does still rely a bit too much on loud noises to cause a scare, but it’s not over-the-top like in part one.
What I really appreciate about Wan’s movies is the lack of CGI to create the apparitions. Pretty much any spirit seen on screen is a person in makeup who was physically on set. It really helps sell that a character is really scared when you know they are actually facing someone or something and not just reacting to a tennis ball on a stick. Insidious: Chapter 2 is an old school haunted house movie.
It’s also great to see the entire original cast back at work – yes, even Lin Shaye (it is a movie about ghosts, after all) – to finish the Lamberts’ story. Sometimes the movie almost feels like two different movies as Lorraine and the guys try to track down information about the spirit that may be inhabiting Josh, and Josh doing his best Jack Torrance impression with Renai and the kids. Some of the looping back to Josh’s childhood and the first film may be confusing as well, but I got a kick out of the inventive storytelling. I have no idea if Wan and Wannell (who also co-wrote the script) planned out Chapter 2 while writing the first film, but it all flows together with great precision.
The biggest question is: is the movie scary? For some, it may be but it’s almost more of a psychological horror film (and there are some heavy Psycho overtones to parts of the plot) with a few things that go bump in the night, but the fear comes more from losing control over yourself and possibly losing those who you love while you’re helpless to intervene. I think the film works much better, overall, than the first one but, at the same time, it really couldn’t exist without it. These really would be two movies to sit down and watch back to back for maximum enjoyment (but don’t let that keep you from seeing it on the big screen with a crowd of people just for the experience). Insidious: Chapter 2 will definitely make a great date movie or be one to see with a group of friends.