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Insidious: Chapter 2 – Movie Review

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Insidious: Chapter 2 – Movie Review

Rating: C+ (Above Average)

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With Insidious, director James Wan showcased the ability to create a scary film through the most minimalist style. Most of the effective moments came from Rose Byrne’s Renai slowly creeping up stairs and ghosts closing doors. In an attempt to up the ante and make things bigger, the sequel shows more of the monsters and demons that haunted young Dalton and puts much more of an emphasis on them. This is a mistake, as it turns Insidious: Chapter 2 into a theme park ride and not a genuine thriller. Even more shocking is the decision to downgrade certain characters to focus on other, less interesting personalities. The trend of horror sequels not living up to the well-established original sadly continues with this series.

The weaker scenes in Insidious involved the demonic figures of the Further appearing front and centre. Subtlety can be a major key in making a successful horror film, even doing away with heavy gore and cheap boos. While Wan has kept the blood to a minimum, the jump scares have multiplied by one hundred. One could almost bring a stop watch and accurately time when any ghost will pop up to try and jolt the audience. Jump scares are the cheapest of all horror movie tricks and Insidious: Chapter 2 abuses them to the extreme. Insidious had one scary moment after another, that were built from tension and not knowing what was around the corner. It seems James Wan forgot about those Hitchcockian rules of suspense when directing the sequel and merely went with the tired Friday the 13th approach this time.

Insidious: Chapter 2 does a good job of bringing back the cast from the first film, except the way it divides their screen time is all over the place. Rose Byrne was the emotional core in the first one, realistically showing the worry and fright of a concerned mother. It almost seems like the filmmakers thought they had told enough of her story, because she is mostly sidelined. It is no surprise she gets the one legitimately scary scene in the sequel, when her baby is taken by a ghost. It is also the only scene that remembers why Insidious worked so well.

Instead, screenwriter Leigh Whannell thought the comical relief ghost hunters were more deserving of the audience’s attention and we are thus saddled with their inept attempts at bringing humour and levity. Patrick Wilson has the difficult task of playing somebody with a completely different personality inside of him and he does not quite cut it. He seems to have studied Jack Nicholson’s terrifying work in The Shining, but Wilson comes off as too over-the-top and unconvincing.

Contrary to what my earlier thoughts may indicate, Insidious: Chapter 2 did not need to be a close recreation of the first film to work. Case in point is one brilliant and clever idea where the sequel changes the perspective of its predecessor. Unlike the rest of the film, this does not come off as cheap and actually brings a degree of energy to an otherwise mediocre experience. While the other twists and turns are either obvious or unspectacular, this element actually allows us to use our brain to connect the dots. If the rest of the film had this amount of creativity to it, there would be more to recommend here. It is a short-lived moment that is so well-handled, it is uncertain whether it was planned all along or thought up during the sequel’s production (most likely the former).

Otherwise, James Wan throws so much at the screen, both literally and through Whannell’s screenplay. The approach in the first Insidious was that “less is more” and in trying to go the usual horror sequel route of adding more and more, this becomes a haunted house ride. Not a clever attraction like Disney World’s famous mansion, but one of those rickety carnival rides that merely causes eye rolls. This appears to be the start of a new franchise, so a lesson for the filmmakers is to go back and see why Insidious was so popular. It was not flashy camera work, monstrous demon makeup or the composer slamming loudly on the piano. It was through a basic horror movie style and level of tension with helpful cues from John Carpenter and Alfred Hitchcock, not to mention characters actually worth caring about. It is disappointing that in making his supposed exit from horror filmmaking, James Wan would leave his mark with such a lackluster entry to the genre and a continuation of a film he did so well in creeping people out.

Review By: Stefan Ellison

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