Friday, September 13, 2013

Insidious Chapter 2 ~ Into The Further With Our Fears

Insidious Chapter 2 ~ Poster | A Constantly Racing Mind
“Last night I watched myself sleep.”

Horror film sequels are an iffy thing at best.  They are also an acquired taste.  There are some average horror films and some exceptional ones.  Even the best of them, loose their sense of terror with each viewing.  For example, "The Exorcist" doesn't get scarier every time you watch it.  We can almost say the same thing about "Insidious Chapter 2.”  The good thing for horror fans who enjoy James Wan's brand of the paranormal, is that "Insidious Chapter 2" retreads familiar ground using many of the same tropes that he has been toying with in the first "Insidious" film and also in "The Conjuring.”  

With horror films, sometimes too much of a good thing, is that over time, it becomes dull and uninspired.  This is the case with James Wan and Leigh Whannel's sequel to the horror film "Insidious.”  Nine years ago they brought something new to the torture porn sub-genre of horror with their "Saw" films (They were involved with the first few films), and they have done this now in the paranormal sub-genre.  They did this first in 2007 with "Dead Silence" and then again with "Insidious.”  This summer James Wan and the Hayes brothers (Chad and Carey) brought us frights with "The Conjuring.”  In "The Conjuring," the story focuses on a haunted house and the possession of the family’s mother.  While "Insidious" centers on the demon's infestation of the father's body.  In-spite of Wan's use of tension building, and perfecting the timing of jump scares, "Insidious Chapter 2" is not as scary as the original film.  But it is still creepy and definitely worth watching.

As sequels go, this chapter gives the audience a sense of closure to the ordeal that the Lambert family has been dealing with.  We spend the first 10 minutes of the film back in 1986 reliving the meeting between a younger Lorraine Lambert (Jocelin Donahue), her son Josh (Garrett Ryan) and mediums Carl (Hank Harris) and Elise (Lindsay Seim).  In a scene reminding me of "Paranormal Activity," Carl and Elise record a session with Josh to determine who or what is haunting him.  The scene is memorable and ties in nicely with the climax.  Back in the present, it is only moments after grown up Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Dalton (Ty Sympkins) have returned from the Further.  While the family was celebrating in another room, Elise (Lin Shaye) takes a picture of the returned Josh, only to discover the creepy old woman that has been haunting him and his son inhabits his body.  Josh murders Elise and then leaves the room only to return when his wife Renai (Rose Byrne) enters the room and discovers the grisly scene.
Insidious: Chapter 2 - The Lamberts | A Constantly Racing Mind
"The shadows are your home now."

The police question Renai about Elise's death.  Suspicion is already pointing at Josh, and Renai is hesitant on voicing her fears about her husband.  While the police hold the Lambert's home as a crime scene, the family moves in with Lorraine.  On my list of places I refuse to go are creepy old houses, with creaky wooden floors and squeaky wooden doors.  Lorraine's house is the perfect setting with plenty of rooms, and filled with things that go bump in the night.  Immediately, Renai's suspicion of Josh grows as the strange noises, and visions continue.  Dalton's night terrors returns, and all this sets the backdrop for the true horror that is to begin.  If you saw the first film "Insidious" then you already know that the demon that lived in Dalton is now in Josh.  In that film, Renai endures the most of the terror as we lead up to climatic third act. 

Insidious: Chapter 2 - A Ghost in the room | A Constantly Racing Mind

Screenwriter Leigh Whannell splits the story in two and now we follow Lorraine as she contacts Elise's investigative companions Specs (Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson).  Weird, creepy stuff starts happening in her creepy old house as soon as her son moves in, and she needs their help in finishing off this demon thing that is haunting her family.  I don't have a major issue with splitting the story, and subsequently the cast, along with the scares.  This may make for more story, but it is a less intense story.  As it turns out, Specs and Tucker decide to call on Carl, the medium friend of Lorraine's from the 1980's.  He arrives, older, and hopefully wiser.  Carl's (Steve Coulter) method of talking with the dead is with lettered dice.  The answers to the questions Carl asks appear as he drops the cubes on a table.  For me, this is one of the more interesting aspects of ghost hunting.

“A dead soul killing living skin...”

Renai's life hasn't gotten any better.  She still hears voices on her daughters baby monitor as director Wan throws all the "Poltergeist" tropes at her.  Josh is acting strange, talking to himself, and making freaky faces.  Most folks would compare Josh's decent into madness to Jack Torrance’s in "The Shining.”  I think in Jack's case, it was in fact madness, whereas I think Josh's is more about spiritual possession.  A very specific spirit possesses Josh.  As it turns out, Lorraine and her ghost busting friend’s investigation leads to a dead serial killer who has some real mommy and gender issues.  The two stories interweave back and forth and ultimately not only tie back to each other, the story cleverly ties directly back to the first "Insidious" film.

Insidious: Chapter 2 - The Dead are Present | A Constantly Racing Mind

Something to note, is that the tension starts out immediately.  From the campy "Insidious”, title card with Joseph Bishara's creepy, over the top musical score hitting both deep and high tones as he sets the dread-filled atmospheric environment.  The music drives the 1980's segment as the young Lorraine plays hot or cold with the malignant spirit.  The music heightens the scene as a strange woman in white smacks the crap out of Renai in Lorraine's living room.  The tension is there, the jump scares too, just something seems to be missing.  Maybe we, as an audience are desensitizing ourselves to murder, ghosts that walk in front of the camera, or appear and disappear within the frame, and somebody really needs to oil all the doors and floorboards.

The acting in this new chapter is solid. Coulter is great and likable as Carl, and Rose Byrne plays Renai as tired and haggard. Patrick Wilson, does possession well. Ty Simpkin's Dalton provides that innocence that we got from the first film. Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson reprise the film's comedy relief. Lin Shaye is a welcome sight as Elise and gives hope to the family. Barbara Hershey provides her character with the strength that this family needs.

Director James Wan, I think has proved to himself and to us, that he has all the elements of the paranormal horror genre down pat.  It is time for Whannell and Wan to move on to something new.  As of this date, we know James Wan is filming the next "Fast and Furious" film, and I am hoping that this will give him some time to come up with new ways of terrorizing us.  In spite of Wan’s reuse of techniques that he perfected with his last two films, "Insidious Chapter 2" is enjoyable as it is scary and fulfills all of your nightmarish dreams.

In theaters starting Friday, 13 September 2013


Insidious Chapter 2 ~ Family Curse
Insidious Chapter 2 ~ It's Still Happening
Insidious Chapter 2 ~ First Look Trailer
Insidious Chapter 2 ~ First Look
Reviewing a New American Horror Classic - Insidious

Movie Data

Genre: Horror, Thriller
Year: 2013
Staring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, Lin Shaye, Ty Simpkins
Director:James Wan
Producer(s): Jason Blum,Oren Peli,Steven Schneider
Writer: Leigh Whannell
Running Time: 105 minutes
Release Date: 9/13/2013

Insidious Chapter 2 Banner | A Constantly Racing Mind
All images are courtesy of Film District

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