Synopsis: A haunted family struggles to uncover a terrifying secret that has left them dangerously connected to the spirit world in Insidious: Chapter 2.
Release Date: September 13, 2013 MPAA Rating: PG-13
It has been quite a summer for director James Wan. A few short months ago, he was scaring the pants off of audiences with The Conjuring, and now he’s following it up with the sequel to his 2010 film Insidious, appropriately called Insidious: Chapter 2.
After a brief flashback that provides a little further exposition into the workings of the first film, Insidious: Chapter 2 picks up right at the moment where Insidious left off. Josh Lambert (The Conjuring‘s Patrick Wilson) has just pulled his son, Dalton (Ty Simpkins from Iron Man 3) out of an alternate dimension of death and demonology. However, something has followed Josh back to the real world, something that kills his parapsychologist and family friend Elise Rainier (There’s Something About Mary‘s Lin Shaye). Josh and his wife, Renai (Rose Byrne from Bridesmaids), gather up their kids and retreat to the home of Josh’s mother, Lorraine (Black Swan‘s Barbara Hershey), to try and put their lives back together. They find no peace there, however, as Renai and the kids soon begin to see a strange woman wandering around the house and stalking them while Josh seems to descend into a madness of his own. Hungry for answers, Lorraine reaches out to Elise’s crew, Specs (Saw‘s Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson from Where the Wild Things Are), who put her in touch with one of Elise’s medium friends, an unimposing fellow named Carl (Steve Coulter from “Banshee”). Together, the four investigate further and discover that there is much more to the force that has followed Josh than they imagined; the entity seeks to possess Josh in an effort to harm the rest of the family. Lorraine, Renai, and the rest of the crew must stop Josh from hurting the kids while exorcising the demonic power that is controlling him.
Insidious: Chapter 2 is a wonderfully surreal cross between a haunted house film and a possession movie. The script, written by James Wan and Leigh Whannell (who, besides playing Specs, has helped write most of Wan’s films), is a perfect follow-up to Insidious. The entire cast is back, which helps immensely with the continuity of a film that is supposed to take place immediately after the last one. Insidious: Chapter 2 keeps the same concepts and tropes as the first film, yet injects enough new blood into the story to keep it from being a simple rehash. The flashback scenes provide plenty of backstory and the new information provided about the past of the ghostly woman who haunts the family adds a lot to the narrative mythology of the franchise. The middle of the film starts to feel a little long, particularly when the snooping around of Lorraine, Specs, and Tucker gets to be more like a Scooby Doo episode than a horror movie, but it all gets reeled in for a third act that is breathtaking, both visually and story-wise.
In the end, Insidious: Chapter 2 ends up being better than the first film despite being less coherent. The film spends so much time shifting between the real world and the alternate world that the inconsistencies seem more intentional than accidental. By the end of the film, everything makes sense and the audience is satisfied, at least until the next film. And yes, while the ending does wrap everything up nice and cleanly, it does leave plenty of room for a sequel. But, then again, it wouldn’t be a horror movie if it didn’t leave with a question mark.
By now, James Wan knows what he wants a film to look like, and so does his longtime cinematographer John R. Leonetti (who also shot The Conjuring and Dead Silence with Wan in addition to the Insidious movies). Insidious: Chapter 2 has a very similar look to the first movie, but adds a lot of dimension with the photography. Because of the division between the real world and the other world in the narrative, the camera is forced to do much more than simply keep things in focus and in frame. When the characters are in their normal world, the lighting and color palette is realistic and unremarkable. However, once the action shifts from the real world to the dimensional one, the colors in the frame dull out, leaving the alternate world with a decidedly bluish tint. Wan and Leonetti pump some low-laying fog at the actors’ feet and light the scene in high contrast, and the effect is a surreal, dreamy state not unlike the A Nightmare on Elm Street movies. Throw a bright light on a red door, and the film gains an instantly iconic image. The photography retains the dark tone of the first film while adding the necessary surrealism to make Insidious: Chapter 2 more than just another sequel.
The music for Insidious: Chapter 2 was done by Joseph Bishara, the same musician who scored Insidious and The Conjuring for Wan. Bishara’s scores have a definite signature sound to them, and it is one that works well for modern horror films. Insidious: Chapter 2 is chock full of the swarming, dissonantly layered violins that drive audiences to the edge of their seat. It’s also got its share of the minimalistic, barely-tuned piano that is so spooky and haunting. The music in Insidious: Chapter 2 not only helps to build the tension, but it actually manufactures scares along with the visuals in the same way that Bernard Herrmann’s stabbing theme for Psycho does. Joseph Bishara is a fantastic modern horror composer, and Insidious: Chapter 2 is a fine example of his work.
James Wan has got scary down pat. He no longer has to rely on Saw style shock value. The Conjuring proved that he could make a horrifying movie without and violence and gore. Insidious: Chapter 2 is not nearly as scary as The Conjuring, but it still has its moments. Many of the early scares are cheap jump scares, but they set the viewer up with an anything-at-anytime feeling, so that suspense is created by anticipation alone. It’s a feeling that is both fun and uncomfortable at the same time, and it’s all over the place in Insidious: Chapter 2.
The scary factor does not stop with the jump scares, however. Insidious: Chapter 2 is loaded with creepy and terrifying imagery, ranging from spontaneously moving rocking horses in a room full of already spooky children’s toys to a basement full of sheet-covered…corpses?…sitting in formation. In the other world of the film, anything can exist, and James Wan uses that fact to make even the most inane thing – like a toddler’s toy walker – seem freaky.
Finally, the ghostly woman that haunts the Lambert family is a combination of creepy imagery and jump scares – it’s horrifying to catch a fleeting glimpse of her, but even scarier to encounter her face to face. Insidious: Chapter 2 isn’t sheer terror from beginning to end, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t make you scream a couple of times.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): James Wan
- Screenwriter(s): Leigh Whannell
- Cast: Rose Byrne (Renai Lambert)Patrick Wilson (Josh Lambert)Barbara Hershey (Lorraine Lambert) Ty Simpkins (Dalton Lambert)Danielle Bisutti (Michelle)
- Editor(s): Kirk M. Morri
- Cinematographer: John R. Leonetti
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Joseph Bishara
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA