Mark Reviews Movies

Insidious: Chapter 2


1  Stars (out of 4)

Director: James Wan

Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, Lin Shaye, Ty Simpkins, Steve Coulter, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of terror and violence, and thematic elements)

Running Time: 1:45

Release Date: 9/13/13

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Review by Mark Dujsik | September 13, 2013

Like its predecessor, Insidious: Chapter 2 has one clever concept to toss into the mix of its otherwise all-too-familiar proceedings of a haunted house and ghostly possession. In the first movie, it was the idea that it was not the house that was haunted but a person.  We always wonder why the people afflicted by strange happenings and ghastly apparitions don't just move out of the damned house in a haunted house movie, and Insidious at least had its family move out of the damned house before realizing that such implementation of common sense wasn't worth a damn.

The sequel, which picks up almost immediately after the events of the first movie (after an extended prologue set almost 30 years prior), gives us a shadowy realm called the "Further." In this place, the souls of the dead that refuse to accept their fate wander around searching for a way to shuffle back on to the mortal coil.

Here's the neat part: That world of the dead does not exist in a specific time or place but apparently encompasses all of time and all of space. For example, the lost soul of the family's patriarch, whose body has been occupied by the soul of a serial killer looking to continue the murderous work that his also-dead mother coerced him into performing while he was alive and still continues to manipulate him into doing even though she's trapped in a memory that also apparently exists in the Further (If you followed that, I offer my congratulations), wants to find out where an evil spirit is hiding.

The only option for him (Don't ask why, in a dimension of seemingly unlimited possibility, there is only one option or, for that matter, there are so many rules) is to communicate with someone who has seen the ghost of the killer's mother. Since he's not dead yet but also not of the real world, Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) must speak with a living person who has the ability enter the Further and has seen the spirit for which he's looking. He knows of only one person who fits those criteria: himself.

If one has followed this so far, the problem should be obvious. Josh in the real world is not himself, so he goes back in time to the events of the first movie as a ghost, inadvertently causing some of the panic that beset him and his family. It's not far back enough, and eventually, he goes even further back to speak to himself as a child.

Well, with that mess cleared up, it's time to state that the time-traveling ghost is the only thing in Leigh Whannell's screenplay that is so patently, uniquely ridiculous that it actually forces us to reconsider the nature of that in which we think we're already quite well-versed. Even if it doesn't make a lick of sense (It doesn't), at least the sequence is trying.

That's far more than can be said of the rest of this repetitive and almost non sequitur sequel, which clearly has its head in the past but cannot even be bothered to recall key pieces of information from its predecessor. There are plenty of flashbacks here, whether it's the prologue that establishes Josh as a spiritually sensitive child or the interview his wife Renai (Rose Byrne) has in the present day with a police officer as she recalls the events that left a clairvoyant named Elise (Lin Shaye) dead (The movie haphazardly dismisses the circumstances of her murder) or Dalton recalling events that happened mere minutes ago.

The Lamberts are living with Josh's mother Lorraine (Barbara Hershey), who starts seeing a mysterious woman strolling through her house. She enlists the help of Elise's old partners Specs (Whannell), Tucker (Angus Sampson), and Carl (Steve Coulter) to track down the identity of the presence in the house, leading them to a musty old hospital and a cobweb-infested house where things creak before something suddenly appears on screen accompanied by a shout (The movie stretches to comical lengths the number of times a person in white pancake makeup is expected to be scary) and the overblown cacophony of Joseph Bishara's just-pound-on-the-instruments score. Director James Wan occasionally builds some brief tension, but every payoff undermines it.

At least those four characters catch on to the fact that something is amiss. Renai, on the other hand, spends most of Insidious: Chapter 2 failing to grasp that something is dreadfully wrong with her husband, which leads to at least two too many instances of her looking vaguely suspicious of him before his face twists into a sinister look after she leaves the room. This essentially makes her the only person who can't see right through the movie.

Copyright 2013 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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