Insidious: Chapter 2 review: ghost of a chance

Insidious yellow light Patrick Wilson

The simple elegance of the first film has been lost in a jumbled mess that sometimes hits on fresh angles on ghost stories but most often is shoddy, sloppy, and lazy.
I’m “biast” (pro): really liked the first film

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Two years ago, Insidious broke out of the overused mold for cheapie horror flicks with a clean, simple elegance — even when it was being funny it was sleek and sly — and an avoidance of easy blood and gore in favor of harder-to-pull-off spooky psychological terror. It made a buttload of money on next to no budget. So of course here’s the cashing-in sequel, which naturally feels comfortable tossing out nearly everything that was refreshing about its progenitor, secure in the knowledge that its audience is assured. We pick right up from the ending of the first film to see what happens after Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson: The Conjuring) brings back something nasty to the real world from the spirit realm: he has the ability astrally project himself into a sort of purgatory afterlife, and had to go retrieve his son, Dalton (Ty Simpkins: Iron Man 3), to whom he unwittingly passed on his talent. Now the Lambert family, including wife and mom Renai (Rose Byrne: The Internship), is in for some tormenting by Dad… or, well, by the parasitic ghost possessing him. Screenwriters James Wan and Leigh Whannell (of Saw notoriety) pad out their lazy script with a jumble of random spookhouse boos and bumps and baroque cheap tricks, and director Wan too often lets the proceedings descend into the weirdly stilted and amateurish; he allows even usually reliable actors such as Wilson and Byrne to embarrass themselves in spots, although Wilson is generally effective in creepy possessed mode, and Byrne generally manages to enliven her thankless Concerned Mother routine beyond the cliché. But the only thing that just about makes this worth a look for those tired of the tediousness of the genre is the dimension-tripping the plot finally gets around to in its final third, when out-of-body-Josh’s journey in the spirit realm takes him back into some events of the first film. Space and time fold in on themselves here in ways that tales of the supernatural rarely bother to do even as they pretend to explore the extradimensionality of the ghost world. It’s a shame the entirety of the film is not so effective.

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