Insidious: Chapter 2 review: ghost of a chance

Get new reviews in your email in-box or in an app by becoming a paid Substack subscriber or Patreon patron.

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.

share and enjoy
If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.
If you haven’t commented here before, your first comment will be held for MaryAnn’s approval. This is an anti-spam, anti-troll measure. If you’re not a spammer or a troll, your comment will be approved, and all your future comments will post immediately.
notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
view all comments
Mon, Sep 16, 2013 7:51pm

What might the scariest of all is the idea that this film was Number 1 in the US box office on its opening weekend.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  singlestick
Mon, Sep 16, 2013 8:26pm

That’s all based on the good will it generated with the first film. I predict it will have a huge dropoff next weekend as bad word of mouth spreads.

The audience I saw it with in North London on Saturday afternoon laughed inappropriately through the whole film. Not a good sign.

Tue, Sep 17, 2013 12:06pm

And this is why squeezing out a sequel to a story that’s ended is a bad idea. It spoils the original story with the taint of the new one.