Friday, September 13, 2013

FILM REVIEW: Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)


James Wan's last horror film is Insidious: Chapter 2. That's it...he's done with the genre. No more scary dolls and creepy white-faced old ladies. So...did he go out with a bang? I would say...yes...and no. Come...take my hand as we drift off into the further adventures of...well, the Further.

I'm an unapologetic fan of Wan's first Insidious  film. It is a fresh little foray into haunted house fare that does its best to bring forth some exciting new ideas, while also scaring the hell out of its audience. Poor third act decisions be damned, I loved the film for what it was. Well, that film did so well...that the studio basically begged Leigh Whannell and James Wan to make a sequel...and here we are. However, since Mr. Wan is done with the genre, this film should mean much more than it ultimately does.

Insidious: Chapter 2  literally picks up where its predecessor left off. But, not before taking us back to Josh's younger days where he was haunted by that pesky "bride in black" demon. We're also introduced to younger versions of Elise and his mom, Lorraine (who is incidentally played by none other than The House of the Devil's Jocelin Donahue. Please, someone...get this girl in more genre movies!) So, stuff happens and we quickly learn that this "bride in black" demon will be the antagonist of this second installment. Then...INSIDIOUS  TITLE CARD!

Fast forward to a dark police interrogation room where Michael Beach's Detective Sendal is throwing the book at poor Renai Lambert (a criminally underused Rose Byrne), who just witnessed her possessed husband strangle the life out of everyone's favorite astral projection medium, Elise (played by everyone's favorite character actress, Lin Shaye). This isn't so much a spoiler if you've seen the first film and remember the stinger at the end of that one. It's more of a refresher. As a matter of fact, I felt it to be one of those seamless transitions that you see in those 2-part TV movies of the week where the conclusion picks up from the last episode, briefly recapping what you just saw. Thankfully, the cop drama stuff doesn't last too long and we're quickly off and running with all the demonic hijinks stuff.


This is the part where I compliment Wan's growth in his filmmaking. While I enjoyed the look of this Insidious  film, The Conjuring  is a much truer testament to his talent in restrained genre filmmaking. I felt like he relied more on soundtrack trickery with this film. Still, he does have a knack for building suspense and pulling genre "fast ones" just when you think you know when the jump scare is coming. He's also a master at pacing and you never get bored with whatever's going on in front of you. It's all cohesive storytelling with a dark tongue-in-cheek wit that never betrays its audience. If nothing else, Wan has successfully learned how to balance everything in perfect harmony in his films.

Anyway, Patrick Wilson is back as the possessed dad, Josh. I always enjoy me some Patrick Wilson...just not sure if I enjoyed this iteration. He seemed a little hokey in the role...especially after his take charge Ed Warren from The Conjuring  is still fresh in your mind. Wilson pretty much spends the length of the film contemplating killing his family.

I won't say much more, for fear of spoiling some of the reveals. But, I will say that those particular reveals took me a little out of the film in a sort of Scooby Doo kinda way. I half expected the antagonist to utter the ole'...(come on, altogether now) "...and I would've gotten away with it, too...if it wasn't for that meddlin' kid!" It's just not really a scary film. And I suppose I'm not really scared of the first film anymore....but, at least it did inspire creepiness when I first watched it, as I didn't really know what to expect. This sequel is more of a fun extension of the original. Specs and Tucker are back with their Poltergeist-esque bumbling and comedy relief that actually becomes a bigger part of this entry.


The film even goes into found footage mode when it comes to origin-investigation time. There's even a bit where momma Lorraine (the always mesmerizing Barbara Hershey), new paranormal investigator Carl (a serviceable Steve Coulter) and the bumbling low-rent ghostbusting twins join forces to trace the entity back to its home and concoct a hilarious plan. It's all a bit far-fetched...but, I didn't really care because we managed to tour haunted asylums and more old, creaky haunted houses.

I'm not saying that there weren't any scares in the film. Wan does manage to get some genuine scares here and there. But, it just doesn't feel as fresh as the first film. Those that hated the first film won't be swooned by this one and those that enjoyed the first one will have fun with this film. Wan has stated that he ran out of money making Insidious  so he had to stop the story abruptly and when it came time for this sequel, he just picked up where he left off and completed everything he originally set out to do.

In the end, Insidious: Chapter 2  is an entertaining haunted house family film filled with tiny jump scares and weird time-travelling theories. It's funny...it's got some dark stuff in there...and all the performances are great. Wan definitely goes all out, conceptually...but, I think he ultimately falls short if this is to be his last genre entry. I would say that The Conjuring  works much better as his horror swan song and this one's just more Insidious. However, that's not to say that James Wan won't go out of the genre without a bang. I'm sure this film will make tons of cash for everyone involved...so, in that way...he will have ended his horror career with a bang. It's just not the last horror film a talented filmmaker should have. Still...it's a fun film and you could do worse than checking Insidious: Chapter 2  out this weekend. It is, after all, the second-to-last horror release of the year.




Thanks for reading,

bryan.





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