Reviewed by: Phantomhour (Brendan Graham)
It’s a pretty common fact among my friends, that James Wan (Director of Saw, Dead Silence, Insidious, The Conjuring and of course this film) is one of my favorite directors. He’s not afraid to take chances, to do reflect on an older style of horror and make it feel new again, or to even flip the genre upside down, which he did with Saw. This summer, he spoiled me with the incredible, The Conjuring, which is one of my favorite modern horror films now (not lying, it made me very happy), and a few months after that, I got to see what he was going to do with one of the most interesting pieces of the supernatural horror genre, a sequel to the surprise hit, Insidious. How did it deliver?
First and Foremost, a word of warning. If you had a hard time dealing with The Further in the first film, and thought it was silly. Stop Reading, Nothing to see here, move along. This film ventures there even more than before, it still has the theme of astral projection (If you have no idea what that means, you haven’t watched the first film, and if you haven’t, go do that now). However, With that being said, Insidious Chapter 2 fixes all the problems I had with The Further, and made it pretty damn creepy. Take a chance and see if you like it better this time around.
Now, onto the actual review.
The film takes place immediately after the events of the first film, and after the brutal murder at the very end of the first film, the Lambert family is looking forward to the calm after the vicious storm, and to be a family again now that their son has been returned to them. So they move in with Josh’s (Patrick Wilson’s character) mother in his childhood home, where he also as a boy had a brush with the other side. Things are going to get better one might think. Of course, we know that is not going to happen. The ghosts from the other side still have plans for their family, and are not going to give up tormenting, torturing and trying to dispose of the poor family. That’s literally all I’m going to tell you about the plot of the movie, because I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises coming up.
What Worked: I will start by saying, I really loved the story in this one. It’s has a rather clever way of continuing this tale from the first one (and the fact Wan decided to call it Chapter 2 makes me happy, because it continues the story, it’s not a sequel with the same kind of material). A lot of the questions you may have had from the first film, are answered, not cheaply answered either, but in ways that made me smile. If a horror movie makes me smile with it’s storytelling, it’s a good thing, trust me. The paranormal occurrences around the house that startled you in Chapter 1, are addressed, down to the Bride in Black. The Further is also much higher in quality, it doesn’t feel like a huge haunted house attraction you’re missing out on, it now feels like a legitimate space that is a character of it’s own. Think, Carnival of Souls, and you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say The Further is pretty damn freaky this time around.
Not only is the story told quite well, but the cast is just as fun and fantastic this time around. Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne as Mr and Mrs Lambert carry a lot of the emotional weight in this movie (and if you remember Patrick Wilson as Ed Warren in The Conjuring, you know he’s a very accomplished actor). Barbara Hershey as Josh’s mom, Lorraine Lambert, is wonderful as well. Remember Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson’s characters from the first one? Specs and Tucker? They’re back, and much improved, no longer as a distraction to the film but rather an intricate part of the story and how it unfolds. I was quite pleased with that change. Also, the spirits in this film are much better in quality, of appearance and acting, and the main spirits of the film (can’t tell you who they are, no spoilers) are vicious and quite frightening.
I am also in love with the cinematography work of John R. Leonetti, who worked on all of James Wan’s latest work. (I even did a written report of him in my Production class). His use of lighting, natural and atmospheric is breathtaking at times, he creates an astounding mood of dread and tension that adds real weight to the material at hand, and the camera tricks he pulls off make all the different reveals ever more effective.
I also need to give the sound designer and composer of the film a digital high five, because the sounds you hear in the film immediately make the hairs on your body stand up. From shrieking violins, to the whispered chuckles and cackles in the dark, you may even find yourself looking behind your shoulder in the theater just to make sure you’re safe.
What Didn’t Work: One of the biggest risks that James Wan took in this film, was the onslaught of story he throws at the audience, about the occurrences in The Further and how they connect with the first film and what is currently happening to the Lambert family. He does succeed with making the audience accept the attack of information, but it does leave you wanting more, especially with the “serial killer” storyline. We were eating out of his hand, eagerly wanting to taste more, and we don’t quite get everything we could want from the characters at this point. It’s less of a real negative factor, more of a frustration I had with the film, it didn’t really effect my enjoyment too much.
Some of the dialogue towards the end of the film gets a little cheesy, like the film is running out of steam, which is understandable, Wan filmed two horror flicks back to back, I bet he was tired, but it was still a little disappointing that it started getting so lazy. The film also has a pacing issue that can be pretty distracting from the amazing tension being built throughout the film. When a film has two different events happening in two different areas, in this case three at one point, you have to be very careful how often and when you’re cutting to these other locations. Not all the cuts in this film are smart, and you lose a lot of that anxious feeling at times because you don’t get enough time to react to the film because you’re jumping at weird places.
The Jump scares are a plenty, but some of them also feel cheapened by how random they are. Just another point to keep in mind, this is a PG-13 film, beware of little punk ass kids who will be obnoxious throughout the whole thing.
While the story and pacing towards the end get slightly cheesy and counter productive towards the overall end of the film, I still had a great time watching Chapter 2, they improved on the mythos of the first film, the acting is pretty solid, and the camera work and sound design are absolutely stunning. If they hadn’t run out of steam towards the end, this could have been Great. But for a horror sequel/continuation, it’s well done.
Insidious Chapter 2 gets a 7.5 out of 10.