Insidious: Chapter 2 may be a huge step up from the first film but it also serves as proof that simplicity rules when trying to scare. James Wan makes an admirable attempt at making a decent sequel that won’t disappoint fans but falls foul of the assumption that complexity is key.
The Lambert family haven’t had a break from the supernatural since their young son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) got his astral body lost in ‘the further’. Now the ghosts and ghouls are back with a vengeance and have claimed a new victim; Dalton’s father Josh (Patrick Wilson). The family has to face their fears and uncover a mysterious childhood secret that has left them dangerously close to the spirit world.
With a hugely convoluted plot it’s easy to get lost in the mind-fuck that is Insidious: Chapter 2 and completely forget to be scared. While the amazing soundtrack by Joseph Bishara is still as brilliantly creepy as ever and Wan’s artistic direction is still second to none, the confusing plot and the sub-story that verges on Doctor Who time-travel-territory detracts from any potential fear. The genius of the first film was in the impeccable atmosphere; the feeling of tension was spot on and the sound effects and camera work were so brilliantly timed that the jump scares were incredible, but the second film lacks all of that.
What’s nice about the film is that it sticks with the same family just days after the events of the first. Poor Renai (Rose Byrne) doesn’t get a break, and her constant expression of deer-in-a-headlight fear shows just how tough on her all this supernatural stuff is. Byrne‘s performance is relatively weak but this is down predominantly to the writing, she isn’t given the chance to explore a strong female lead and instead has to succumb to the wide-eyed looks of terror and irritating shrieks, wails and cries of a damsel in distress. Psychic ghost hunter Elise (Lin Shaye) and her two geeky hipster sidekicks provide, once again, some quality comedy now and again that brightens the mood, screenwriter Leigh Whannell makes his appearance as geeky ghost nut Specs again alongside Angus Sampson as Tucker. The pair’s antics are the highlight of the film which probably says more about the quality of the film than it does their performances.
Wan’s direction is spot on, the music is incredible and the cinematography is to die for. Patrick Wilson delivers a brilliant performance and is able to explore a totally different side to his character and really shows off his talent. Barbara Hershey is another, slightly more surprising, star of the film giving an impressive performance as Josh’s mum. Everything about the film is top quality so why did I leave the cinema feeling let down? I missed that tense feeling that I had throughout the first film. That chair-gripping terror that makes the stomachs of even the most hardened of horrorheads churn. There were a few predictable jump scares but that feeling of genuine horror was gone. Wan focussed far too much on trying to concoct an intelligent, complex storyline and it’s such a mind fuck at times that it’s impossible to be fully scared because you’re spending too much time contemplating the plot.
A stylistically brilliant film once again, Insidious: Chapter 2 only disappoints on one level; it’s simply not as scary. Wan could’ve done with a simpler plot and a scarier atmosphere but instead he assumed that complexity automatically meant the film would be better. A brilliant film, but completely overshadowed by its predecessors ability to scare the shit out of its viewers.