Insidious: Chapter 2 Movie Review
Written by Karin Crighton
Directed by James Wan
Written by Leigh Whannell and James Wan
2013, Rated R
Release on September 13th, 2013
Patrick Wilson as Josh Lambert
Rose Byrne as Renai Lambert
Barbara Hershey as Lorraine Lambert
Lin Shaye as Elise Rainier
I only saw Insidious when the buzz started for Insidious: Chapter 2. I’d seen Sinister and was so bored I never thought I could get into another production from Jason Blum, but I gave it a shot. I really enjoyed it; Patrick Wilson is great as a former lucid dreamer who unwittingly passed the trait onto his oldest son Dalton. Dalton can't control the gift, or curse, and goes too far into the other world and is sought by demons and ghosts trying to steal his human form, left in a coma on earth. Once we actually see the demon, the wind is gone, as is true for all monster movies, but the final setup for a sequel is a dizzying whirlwind of panic that leaves you wanting more.
And then came this movie, promising so much aaaaaand delivering just under two thirds of it.
Insidious: Chapter 2 starts with a bang – literally. The title music deafens you, perhaps in the hope that you won't hear the first lines of awkward dubbing of Lin Shaye's (Elise Rainier) voice over that of Lindsay Seim, playing a younger Elise as we plunge backwards in time to uncover the origin story of the Lambert Lucid Dreaming Epidemic. Meanwhile, they don't dub Barbara Hershey's voice over that of Jocelin Donahue (young Lorraine), so we're off to a shaky start. While Insidious: Chapter 2 goes on to blend seamlessly into the first incarnation (and director James Wan's use of what has been established is f*cking brilliant, if I may type so myself), it never quite recovers from this fumbling start, bloated with plot and supporting characters.
This film is very entertaining, don't get me wrong. The frantic search through lucid dreaming to fight off the newest threat to the Lambert family revives the best moments of the first film with agonizing and terrifying brilliance. But for every turn of genius in the story, a bit of overacting or a cheesy line throws it right back into middle-road storytelling. Rose Byrne returns less fearful and more invested and I can forgive the spelling of "Renai" this time. Barbara Hershey hits her objectives a little hard and gets pushy, but overall she and the kids aren't that annoying. Patrick Wilson is creepy as all hell but is so blatantly plugged as Prime Suspect it's irritating. In his defense, it feels like a direction given to him than a fault of his own. The return of Specs and Tucker is delicious comic relief and the addition of Steve Coulter as Elise's old partner Carl is a warm hug in this dark world. Unfortunately when Specs, Tucker, and Carl team up with Lorraine to look for the evil spirit behind Josh's odd behavior it goes a bit Scooby Doo. The viewer gets the sense that Wan and co-writer Leigh Whannell wanted this story to have so many layers they didn't consider the layers would sink the film under their weight. It's so bothersome that the delivery of the story is the main hindrance, since the idea is well conceived and damn good.
My issues end there; I laughed and squealed and squirmed along with the other viewers despite these faults. The effects rely solely on makeup and sudden reveals and there is no obvious CGI. The monsters and demons and humans were all the more terrifying because they were real. I've never feared a baby buggy before and by the end of Insidious: Chapter 2 I wanted to start a mob to burn every demon-possessed buggy I could get my hands on. The costume design is inspired as well; incongruous outfits in one scene are at first confusing but later reveal a horrible truth, working alongside clues peppered in with the editing. The film moves along with a great clip and you're never bored with the action, just with a cheesy line or heavy-handed delivery.
As the time runs out to salvage the Lambert clan, Insidious: Chapter 2 does grow more frantic and fearful but it never quite reaches its full potential. The success of most horror films lies in what they don't show but Insidious: Chapter 2 tries to fit so much back story it shows its hand too soon.
I still slept with a light on.