September 22, 2013

Movie Review: Insidious - Chapter 2

It was just a couple years ago that producer Oren Peli (director of Paranormal Activity) teamed with director James Wan (Saw, Death Sentence) and writer Leigh Whannell (Saw, Dead Silence) to bring us the surprisingly awesome Insidious. It was a movie that was truly, well, insidious. Now, a few months back I saw a trailer for Insidious: Chapter 2, I had no idea they were even making a sequel. Sadly, the trailer looked uninspired. It advertised a movie that looked like nothing more than a rehash of the first. Still, I have become a Wan supported and had hopes that it would deliver, especially after the excellent The Conjuring.

I am happy to report that Insidious: Chapter 2 delivers the goods. It manages to be its own movie, directly tied to the first, and while treading some similar ground, manages to differentiate itself and sand on its own as a genuine sequel that is not a studio's grab for cash. It may not be quite the creep fest that was the first film, I does have its share of scares and genuine creepiness. 

Where the first movie seemed to be channeling Poltergeist from a slightly Japanese perspective, this sequel steps into The Shining, but still with that Japanese feeling of no escape. It is a movie that makes I clear that Wan and Whannell are devotees of the classics and do not fear treading familiar ground. The thing you have to focus on when following well-worn tracks is to do it in a way that makes it feel fresh. Wan knows this and pulls out his bag of camera and living tricks, paired with a great sense of timing to make the predictable worthy of the inevitable jump scare.  

This sequel opens in the past, with family patriarch, Josh (Patrick Wilson), as a child. Eerie things are going on and his mother (Jocelin Donahue, later by Barbara Hershey) has called the help of paranormal investigator named Carl and his friend Elise (Lindsay Seim, distractingly dubbed by Lin Shaye who played her in the first movie and later in this one). It seems young Josh is troubled by a spirit who is less than friendly. Fortunately the memory is blocked as Josh goes on to have a normal life.

As the film moves back to the present, we have the Lambert family moving in with Josh's mother. This may not have been a good idea, as it reopens the events of the past while still tied to the events of the first film. I does not seem that Josh came back alone from the Further. 

The creepiness begins to grow as Renai (Rose Byrne) and Lorraine (Hershey) begin o see ghostly images around the house. There is also the self playing piano and the furniture hat has a mind of is own. Before long we have the return of Specs (Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), the ghost busting duo from the original. They get Carl (Steve Coulter) to help out and they go on a quest to find the root of the haunting.

Like the fist, the third act gets some pretty weird stuff as he Further comes into play and the secrets are revealed as to what is behind all of this. It also has this nice, loopy quality where it ties back to some things nay happened in the first film. More than a sequel, it is like a a piece of the whole. These films taken together paint a large portrait of a history of haunting hat are woven together as one tapestry rather than two entities smashed together for the sake of the box office draw.

I am not sure that I like this movie as much as the first, but there is no denying that there is something very attractive about it. This one has more hand holding and plot exposition, but I still found it to be highly effective. I credit some of that to the acting. The cast is very good. Rose Byrne has a great scared face and Patrick Wilson has an oddness to him hat helps with his Jack Torrance-y performance. When Lin Shaye shows up, it is like a returning hero, she brings a great sense of class to the proceeding. I also enjoy the chemistry of Whannell and Sampson.

James Wan is also a very good director who has really come into his own. It is a shame he is taking a break from horror. Besides being a poster boy for modern splatter, he is also showing there is a place for quality mainstream horror. Just because a project appears targeted to a wide audience does not mean it can't be genuinely creepy, scary, or just plain be a good project. I know it does not seem to happen a lot, but his is a good example of quality work.

Insidious: Chapter 2 is a very good sequel. It brings the creepy atmosphere, the jump scares, the story and delivers on its promise. This has a lighter tone and ultimately aims to entertain and it really works for me. See it, enjoy it, and let's hope the inevitable Chapter 3 manages to keep the quality.

Highly Recommended.     

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