I think I found out about the sequel to Insidious through my reading. I follow several of the entertainment trade media outlets to stay abreast of upcoming movie releases, development deals and other assorted cinematic stuff. (It turns out, I’m a nerd when it comes to writing AND movies.) With that said, the moment I read about the sequel, I was instantly elated.
The first Insidious film really made an impression on me. I enjoyed it far more than I thought I was going to. As a matter of fact, I told my Facebook friends (and anyone else that cared to listen) that Insidious was the first movie to really scare me since Session 9, which came out in 2001. Coming from me, that’s a big compliment because I love Session 9—hard. Whenever I watch that movie, for several days after viewing, the evil voice from the film will pop into my mind and scare the beejesus out of me.
Insidious managed to frighten me on the same level as Session 9. Essentially, It did its job as a scary movie—it terrified me. Because of this, I was sure that Insidious: Chapter 2 would do the same, especially considering that the entire cast came back for the sequel and the movie was a literal continuation of the storyline from the first film.
I went out to see Insidious: Chapter 2 on opening night. It was Friday the 13th and autumn was in the air, as was the Halloween theme music. The timing couldn't be more perfect, I thought, as Cristoph and I headed out to our local theater. We live in a college town so there were a lot of kids at the movies that night. There were so many in fact, that it was as loud as a cafeteria. Once we were let into our theater we knew we were embedded within a lively group. Unfortunately, they were so lively they couldn’t bring themselves to STFU for more than 20 minutes at a time.
There was so much talking to the screen, talking to one another and shushing, that it was difficult to get lost in the ambiance conjured within the film. It was so loud in there that eventually I just gave up and tried to hear as much of the dialogue as possible. Needless to say, both my husband and I left the theater unsatisfied with the experience.
Once outside, Cristoph asked me if I knew what grade I would be assigning the film. I told him I wasn’t sure yet. Then I started to think about what I’d just seen. I tried to remember the bits of the movie that were of particular interest, but I was having trouble. I figured I should just focus on trying to recall the mood that the movie was attempting to establish. That was when it hit me. It was so distractingly loud during the movie that I’d never gotten the chance to fully immerse myself in the story.
The kids were great and even funny sometimes, but dang man... That was a lot of noise and I’m a loud individual, so that should say something about the intensity of the situation. On the plus side, I managed to keep my trap shut and not tell everyone to go straight to hell for fucking up the movie going experience. I did shush loudly a couple of times, but that was all. I’m attempting to be less dickish in general and boy did this experience test my boundaries.
Anyhoo, since watching a movie at Animal House isn’t the best way to set up the production of a well-informed movie review, I decided I needed to watch it again. I called up my BFF and we headed out to watch Chapter 2, this time in the suburbs. As expected, the movie going experience was much quieter there.
Upon exiting the theater the second time, I knew exactly what grade Insidious: Chapter 2 would be getting from me. I must admit, I enjoyed the film much more during the second viewing. I heard all the lines and was able to follow the plot. There were some good scares and rather creepy scenes, but overall I found the film lacking. I couldn’t, however, pinpoint why at the time.
Fortunately, I’m ready now.
We first meet up with Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson), in the past. It’s 1986 and he’s just a kid. His mother Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) has called in a medium named Carl (Steve Coulter) to find out what is terrorizing her son. Carl then calls on his friend Elise (Lin Shaye) to help him.
Elise shows up at Lorraine’s house and hypnotizes Josh to discover that he’s being stalked by an evil entity, which hopes to slip into Josh’s body while he’s out exploring other dimensions in his sleep or astral projecting. Elise quickly decides it’s best to suppress Josh’s special abilities while she has him under hypnosis. She knows that the nefarious entity stalking Josh is powerful and cunning. She also knows she must stop it now before it gets any closer to the world of the living.
Fast forward twenty five years and Josh’s wife, Renai (Rose Byrne) is being interviewed by a cop about Elise’s death. It seems the cop thinks Josh played some part in Elise’s demise and he also thinks that Renai just might agree with him.
Insidious: Chapter 2 is the story of Josh and his family’s last stand against an all-consuming evil that threatens to destroy them. Chapter 2 chronicles the suspicion of Josh’s role in Elaine Rainier’s death. Renai doesn’t want to suspect her husband, but she’s just been through supernatural hell and wants to ensure her family’s safety at all costs. Lorraine, Josh's mother, knows there is trouble lurking in the shadows and calls upon her old paranormal friends for help once more. Together they fight the darkness that attempts to devour their souls.
I’ll start off by saying that Patrick Wilson is one creepy motherfucker when he wants to be. He gave me the heebeejeebees the moment he popped up on screen. Wilson brings us a dubious hero in Josh Lambert. Josh has saved his family once from destruction, but what has become of him in the process? Wilson executes a delicate degree of animosity and exasperation throughout most of his performance and does so skillfully. I’m not gonna lie, it was a little scary to watch him unhinge.
Rose Byrne is the gentle force that grounds this film. As Renai Lambert, she’s worn ragged with concern and just wants to free herself of the evil forces that haunt her family. Byrne has an exquisitely expressive face and she radiated an unease and stress that I imagine I would experience if I ever had to go through something paranormal of that magnitude.
Barbara Hershey is great as Lorraine Lambert. The standouts from the supporting cast, however, are Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson as Specs and Tucker, respectively. They worked with Elise before her passing and they are again the comic relief in this franchise. Both performances worked to balance out the tension created through the story.
The acting was pretty good, the story a departure from the usual—intriguing on multiple levels, but still something didn’t sit right with me. It took a while to figure out what bothered me about the movie and I’m not sure what tripped my epiphany this time. I just know that it happened. In replaying some of the scarier scenes of the movie in my head, I realized that some of the smaller details were what was throwing me off.
Back when the first Insidious came out and I was raving about it, one of my good friends commented that she thought the makeup in the movie left a lot to be desired. I disagreed somewhat at the time. She thought the makeup seemed a bit too basic and somewhat cartoonish. I could see where she was coming from, but I thought the makeup appropriate and even chilling.
I can’t say the same about the makeup in the sequel. All the dead people were this common shade of Dead Guy Grey and I know that should appeal to someone like me, but it just seemed too standard—obvious and boring, visually. I would have liked to see semitransparent ghosts or something along those lines. Maybe if the faces were somehow unnaturally distorted or more visually disturbing. I’m not sure what the appropriate remedy would be; I just know I didn’t like the presentation of the phantoms in this film.
The other element that seemed overly standardized was the presentation of the paranormal voices throughout the film. I realize I’m being nit picky with this, but the small stuff is what reverberates and makes the fear linger for me. These small details are vital to intensifying the overall fear factor and the sinister ghostly voices were more hokey than eerie. Instead of going with the standard cinematic expression of ghosts and ghouls James Wan (Director) should have ventured outside of this comfort zone. The story was fresh and so too should have been the imagery.
Overall this wasn’t too bad. If you have a chance to get out there and see it in the theater, why not? Halloween is around the corner and we might as well start building that creepy anticipation now. People been celebrating the impending arrival of Christmas since June so I think we can go full steam with the Halloween thing, starting now. Have at it and check this one out. You’ll like it if you like being scared.
Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013) - B-
B- = If you’re already out and looking for a good movie time, watch this at your local theater. I’m not telling you to go out of your way for a viewing. I guess you could maybe stream this instead if that would be easier. Either way, it’s decent times and you won’t be mad that I encouraged you to sit through it.