Film Review: Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

Insidious: Chapter 2, 2013

Directed by: James Wan

Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Ty Simpkins

 

I was quite apprehensive about this franchise initially: I watched and enjoyed the first in the cinema but didn’t feel there was enough in it for have three sequels and was quite worried that films two, three and four were going to be copy-and-paste repeats of the original. Thankfully, with Insidious: Chapter 2, it actually improves and expands on the original’s world. It starts off immediately in the aftermath of the original’s conclusion, with Elise (Lin Shaye, Insidious) having been murdered, seemingly, by Josh (Patrick Wilson, Insidious), and we being with Renai (Rose Byrne, Insidious) who is being questioned by the police as to whether or not Josh could have done this. The rest of the film follows two narratives, one which sees Josh slowly acting stranger and the other with Elise’s old haunting buddies, Carl (Steve Coulter), Specs (Leigh Whannell, Insidious) and Tucker (Angus Sampson, Insidious) discovering and uncovering the secrets behind one of the spirits that was haunting Josh.

So many aspects of this film are better than the original: firstly, it uses a steady camera rather than a hand-held style for the most part, and it just makes the film much more presentable, and the way it uses jump-scares is much better. In the first film each jump-scare (even a scene where someone blinks) comes with at least five seconds of horrific clanging and banging, whereas Insidious: Chapter 2 uses a more traditional single bang and the jump-scare is over (even if it is disappointing that it feels jump-scares are necessary). It drastically lessens the ridiculousness of the film’s soundtrack, and subsequently improves the overall viewing. And as I touched upon earlier on, the series actually moves forward in the world it’s created, rather than a Saw-like franchise which does the same thing over and over as they know it’ll make money. In this film we are presented a much more frantic world, with regards to the spirits, as they’re more commonplace in their home and desperately seeking human life. And we’re given a lot of back-story, to the world and to our protagonists, which fleshes out a lot of the world.

I don’t know how much Leigh Whannell and James Wan planned out these films, but there’s a couple of scenes in Chapter 2 which hark back to a scene from Insidious (for example in Insidious Josh heard a door knowing but nobody was there, we find out in Chapter 2 it was Josh, himself, who was knocking the door). It’s not needed, after finishing Insidious I never found myself questioning who was knocking the door, but it benefits it all. There’s also a beautiful small story which occurs in all three acts, acting as a scary moment in the first act, a moment of understanding in act two and a moment of joy in act three. I won’t spoil it but it is a really nice, albeit quite small, arc throughout.

On the flip side, though, it does still have a lot of inconsistencies within its own world. Firstly, the further, the area where souls can wonder off to, is still Josh’s house, and Elise, who’s in the further, says that all dead souls pass through on their way to a better place. But why is Elise still hanging around there? And why is the further Josh’s house? I get it could be anyone’s house and they each pass through their own furthers (as where are all the other thousands of dying souls) but why, then, is Elise in his? And in the living world is there a rule on spirits projecting themselves to the living? There’s a scene where Renai sees a spirit and follows it, but it vanishes as it walks through a doorway; can spirits choose when they appear or are they set to a timer? And Elise at the very end is visible to a little girl, but nobody else, so why can Renai, Lorraine (Barbara Hershey, Insidious), Specs, Tucker and Carl, who all do not have the same gift as Josh and Dalton (Ty Simpkins, Insidious), see these apparitions if nobody else can see Elise towards the end? And why is Elise still on earth? She said that she was passing through the further en route to somewhere better, but she’s ended up freely on earth . . . can any and all spirits come back to earth? It’s quite a small thing but they’ve created this world and haven’t thought too much about the actual workings of it, and it just comes across that they can’t be bothered thinking of a logical reason, which is disappointing.

Another thing that really bugged me, and I don’t know why it should (it did so with Justice League, too) is that they advertise Lin Shaye in the film despite her being dead in the series (it was Henry Cavill in Justice League). Leave us think she’s really dead, even if she comes back, as it lessens the surprise when she does. Much like with Superman in Justice League; I know he’s coming back during the film, but the trailers never advertised him, but in the film his name is second behind Ben Affleck’s. Just let them be dead instead of telling us they’re coming back to life somehow.

Overall I felt that Chapter 2 was a much more solid and consistent film than Insidious, although it’s difficult to say which I personally enjoyed more. But a much cleaner recording style, and less headaches caused by the lengthy jump-scare rackets as well as expanding on the world it creates (even if it doesn’t fully explain its own rules) rather than repeating itself make this a pleasant flm to watch, and, for a change, an enjoyable horror sequel.

 

Plot: * * *            Acting: * * *       Writing: * *         Presentation: * * *

Overall Rating: * * ¾

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