This summer, I almost underwent a radical change in ideology.I started to believe that a modern horror movie could be more than just a mess of blood and cheap scares.There was substantial evidence to back up my claim. “The Conjuring,” a James Wan film based on actual events in Rhode Island, not only had the scares of a great horror film, but had a script and cast to make it a great movie in any genre. Adam Wingard’s “You’re Next” also opened to rave reviews, giving a new twist to the home-invasion story.
I could only hope that “Insidious: Chapter 2,” also directed by Wan, would continue the streak that kept these thrillers from being “just another horror movie.” But what did I get for my overabundant optimism?
Just another horror movie.
Insidious 2 picks up right where the first installment left off, with Josh (Patrick Wilson) saving his son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) from the spirit world called the Further. The only problem is, Josh isn’t actually Josh. Another malevolent spirit took over his body, left the real Josh in the Further and has killed paranormal investigator Elise (Lin Shaye) before she could warn the others.
Now Josh’s wife Renai (Rose Byrne) and mother Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) must confront Josh’s dark past with the help of investigators Carl (Steve Coulter), Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) to bring Josh back before their unwelcome visitor kills them all.
The plot may appear sinister enough for the average moviegoer, but in the end, it becomes nothing more than an overblown and predictable sequel that never lives up to its predecessor.
As the writer of the screenplay, Whannell’s script feels forced in the film’s 105-minute run, whether Specs and Tucker are overemphasizing the importance of Elise’s death or Josh tries to force Renai to forget about evil spirits and have a normal life. It spends (read: wastes) a considerable amount of time building up to the reveal of Josh’s true identity, which is blatantly obvious, especially for those who have seen the first movie, dropping not-so-subtle hints at every possible moment.
Even the majority of the performances feel exaggerated. As the possessed Josh, Wilson clearly channels Jack Nicholson from “The Shining,” which makes for an eerie, yet highly unoriginal character. The rest of the cast only manage acts of extreme terror that fuel the horror film stereotype, save for Whannell and Sampson, who serve as the amusing and welcomed comic relief.
Between the exaggerated script and overly dramatic cast, however, Insidious 2 does bring in a number of creepy ghouls and twists to keep the plot interesting and the viewers on the edge of their seats.
The back-story of the spirit living as Josh may be more disturbing than entertaining (his mother dresses him up as a girl as a child, for starters) but it certainly startles. The other ghostly entities from the Further – an intriguing concept in and of itself that holds together both movies – don’t hold much significance to the plot, though they do the job of bringing the jump scares as well as any ghost could.
Insidious 2 had the potential to fully convince me that horror movies were on their way to becoming a respectable genre of cinema, especially on account of the success of Wan’s last film. Unfortunately, it gives nothing original or creative to bring me over to the ranks of the horror buffs. There can certainly be exceptions to the general stereotype of cheesy horror movies, but Insidious 2, unfortunately, is not one of them.
** ½ out of five