Insidious: Chapter 2 Review

Perhaps in response to the overwhelming amount of sequels schlepping out of Hollywood in the past few years, director James Wan (Saw) makes it clear mere minutes into his most recent film Insidious: Chapter 2 just why his 2010 runaway hit Insidious deserves a sequel.

Get ready to hold on to your armrest, because Insidious: Chapter 2 delivers on the scares.

That Wan spent the time between the first and second chapters of the Insidious series directing the frightful tale The Conjuring makes sense; for a filmmaker as stylistically talented as Wan not to hone his skills in the interim would be a waste. Whatever he learned on the set of 2013’s other scare-fest certainly paid off: Chapter 2 is filled with high intensity, giggle-inducing creepiness.

Picking up where the first chapter left off, Insidious: Chapter 2 throws us back into the lives of Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai Lambert (Rose Byrne) and their tragically forgettable three children. After the death of the medium Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) at the end of the previous film, the Lamberts move in with Josh’s mother Lorraine (Barbara Herskey), and all is well for mere moments until absolutely nothing is well: the piano starts playing itself, the baby is found out of her crib, and the presence of the otherworldly catches Renai’s attention yet again.

Insidious: Chapter 2 offers the kind of scares that viewers see coming but will fall for anyway. As horror films go, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a film more delightfully and enjoyably scary as this one. You’ll psych yourself out anticipating the next bump, the next scare, or the next scream, but you’ll have a blast in the process.

Insidious: Chapter 2 Review

Don’t expect to be carried away by the actual plot. Despite the performances, toward the end of the film the plot becomes more distracting than interesting, and one can’t help wishing the frights could exist independent of the machinations between the characters.

The performances in Insidious: Chapter 2 are relatively strong. No film that features close ups on Hershey’s (Black Swan) face can claim to be looking for subtlety; her intense stare alone is just razor sharp enough to balance an entire horror-thriller film atop. And though sadly unbelievable in the matriarchal role, Byrne (Bridesmaids) exudes the level of exhaustion believably associated with being stalked by the denizens of the spirit world yet again.

Wilson (The ConjuringYoung Adult) makes use of his Broadway pedigree and knocks it out of the park as a character in schism; we want so much for him to be the Josh from chapter one, but it wouldn’t be Insidious if it were that easy.

In the directing chair, Wan takes “insidious” quite literally, strategically using light and color to arrive at a tense scene in which almost everything has become red, and you never noticed it overwhelm the screen. The malice in the film is overtly presented in heavy shadows, and every moment you imagine those shadows just may conceal another threat.

In true horror film style, Insidious: Chapter 2 is the kind of film that features abandoned hospitals (as if they are just everywhere) and in which no one runs from danger quite quickly enough.

But though the film ranks highly in enjoyability, qualms still peek through the cracks.

Insidious: Chapter 2 Review

The stiff dialogue is easy enough to wave away, but one must wonder why the Lamberts have three children when hearing from even one of them—Dalton (Ty Simpkins), the star of the previous entry in the franchise—is frightfully disengaging.

Moreover, there’s a decided feeling of weightlessness to the plot of Insidious: Chapter 2. Despite featuring forays into the space-time continuum and throwbacks to scenes from Insidious, you may still leave the theater having already forgotten the actual plot points of the film.

And then there’s the fact that the end of the film lobs a ball in the direction of a Chapter 3, a move wholly unnecessary to the franchise plot-wise. Luckily for the film, Insidious: Chapter 2 plays not like a money-grubbing sequel, but instead acts as one of the rare part two’s that manages to complete its predecessor rather than glom off of its success.

Is Insidious: Chapter 2 the right choice for a Friday that wants something to do? Yes. Will you laugh and grip your armrests and jump in your seat? Yes. Will you leave the theater feeling inspired by the horror genre? Probably not.

But unlike some of the characters in Insidious: Chapter 2, at least you’ll get to leave with your soul.