Movie Review: Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

December 16, 2013 in Movie Reviews, Reviews by pacejmiller

I much preferred this poster to the one that just ripped off the one from The Conjuring

I much preferred this poster to the one that just ripped off the one from The Conjuring

The first Insidious from 2011 (review here) was a pleasure, a supernatural horror film that delves, unexpectedly for me, into the world of astral projection (oops, is that a spoiler?). It fell apart somewhat towards the end, but it started with aplomb and contained some genuinely creepy sequences and effective traditional scares. The fact that I watched the film feeling kinda weak after a bout of food poisoning might have also contributed to the overall experience.

When I first heard that they were making a sequel I was apprehensive. For all its positives, Insidious did not come across as a sequel-friendly film, especially given the way it ended. It felt like a studio cash-grab, to be honest, and my expectations were accordingly fairly low. In this light, Insidious: Chapter 2 actually exceeded what I had expected of it, which is a reflection of the skill of Aussie director James Wan (who will helm the new entry in the Fast & Furious franchise — RIP Paul Walker, by the way) and his buddy Leigh Whannel, who wrote the screenplay.

Insidious: Chapter 2 picks up where the first one ended, which means there could be a bit of confusion for audiences who did not watch the first one. Essentially, the plot centers on a family of four, a couple (played again by the formidable duo of Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) and their two young sons, one of whom is naturally adept at astral projection. They were haunted by nasty entities in the first film and they are again, and this time the stakes are even higher.

This sequel is a more in-depth film that traces the story back to its origins (hinted in the first film) and keeps the narrative progressing in the present day. I understand the decision to call this Insidious: Chapter 2 as opposed to just Insidious 2, because it really is a continuation of the same story. As such, the structure of the film is less traditional and could throw some people off, and there were indeed times when I felt like the plot was wandering aimlessly in search of more scares.

However, as a horror film, Insidious: Chapter 2 is still damn effective, with some highly-skilled fright sequences that once again utilises every tool in Wan’s bag of tricks. People who have seen the first film and this year’s horror highlight, The Conjuring, will have a fairly good idea of what they are in for. Apart from recreating the eerie atmosphere from the first film, Wan uses plenty of misdirection to put you off guard before making you jump out of your seat with loud “boo” scares and frightening images. I wasn’t as unsettled as I was this time around but I can appreciate a strong effort when I see one, and it’s arguable that Wan has improved further as a filmmaker after The Conjuring (especially when it comes to deciding what to show and what not to show on screen). That blaring theme music (if it can be called music) that accompanies the title still gets me every time.

There is admittedly less freshness and intrigue this time around as the film steps into The Shining territory, and audiences who don’t “get” astral projection might find the whole thing kinda silly; laughable even. In many ways, Insidious: Chapter 2 is really just for the fans of the first one, and from what I’ve heard the wheels are already in motion for a third.

At the end of the day, I would have been perfectly happy if Insidious was a standalone film. While Insidious: Chapter 2 probably didn’t need to be made, it still is better than the vast majority of horror films to hit our screens every year, and because of that I didn’t mind it at all.

3.25 stars out of 5!

PS: Like it or not, astral projection is a real phenomenon, and it’s there to be explored for people who dare to venture into that kind of stuff (I don’t). That said, I’m not sure how accurately the film portrays it, but my guess is not very :)