By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Chapter 2 isn’t hideous, but it’s just not Insidious.
The narrative of the horror sequel, Insidious: Chapter 2, after flashing back a generation or so, picks up where its creepy predecessor left off. But it lacks the first outing’s capacity to disturb.
Josh and Renai Lambert (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne), having recognized their willy-nilly connection to the spirit world, have moved themselves and their kids out of their apparently haunted house and into that of Lorraine, Josh’s mother (Barbara Hershey).
But as they found out before, it’s not necessarily the house that’s haunted, so moving away from whatever evil visitor from the spirit world is wreaking havoc doesn’t necessarily leave it behind.
To help them try once again rid themselves of the evil spirits, they call upon Carl, a medium played by Steve Coulter, who can commune with the spirit world, just as they earlier turned to psychic Elise, played by Lin Shaye, whom we get to see in flashbacks.
And eccentric ghost hunters Specs (screenwriter Leigh Whannel) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) are also back, once again pretty much in charge of the film’s modest comic relief.
This time we get to find out what happened to Josh when he traveled into the plane of existence known as “The Further” to rescue his son Dalton (Ty Simpkins).
Yes, he accomplished what he attempted. But at what price? And can Renai trust him, or has he fundamentally changed in some unexplainable and dangerous way?
Director James Wan (Insidious, Saw, The Conjuring) certainly has the horror credentials. But whereas the first Insidious (2011) was a respectable and effective take on the haunted house thriller, old-school scary without being disgustingly gross, the awkwardly structured sequel lacks the confidence in its material and, instead of concentrating on sustaining the suspense, resorts to far more generic “Boo!” moments.
The screechy shock scares are much more self-consciously depended upon: some work, some do not. But the bigger problem is that the level of dread is not sustained nearly as well in the sequel as it was in the original. The heebie-jeebies are a bit out of reach this time in a film with an elusive plot that will seem especially convoluted to viewers who did not see the original.
As for the characters, too much of what they do and say is obligatory horror-flick behavior rather than believable reactions by ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.
And in Act Three, the film goes way over the top and off the deep end (or is it the shallow end?), thus undermining the earlier buildup.
So we’ll haunt 2 stars out of 4. Even if you felt Chapter 1 got it done, Insidious: Chapter 2 may not be for you.
Will there be a 3? We’ll just wait and see.