UK Release Date: September 13th, 2013 (UK)
Running Time: 105 mins.
Director: James Wan
Writer: Leigh Wannell, James Wan
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye, Ty Simpkins, Barbara Hershey, Leigh Whannell, Andrew Astor, Angus Sampson, Jocelin Donahue, Danielle Bisutti, Lindsay Seim, Steve Coulter
1986, psychic mediums Carl (Coulter) and Elise Reiner (Seim) are helping Lorrain Lambert’s (Donahue) son Josh suppress his astral projection abilities to keep him safe from the evil spirit of a woman in white who stalks him…
2011, Josh Lambert (Wilson) has used his astral projection skills to rescue his son Dalton (Simpkins) from the psychic limbo known as The Further where souls of the damned and tormented exist but on his return he is possessed by the evil spirit that haunted him as a child and murders the psychic investigator Elise Rainer (Shaye). In the aftermath of that fateful night his wife Renai (Byrne) is being interviewed by the police are investigating the incident. As the detective states,
“I’m not interested in ghosts, Mrs Lambert, I’m interested in the people who create them. Did he kill her?”
Renai’s only response is, “Something evil followed him.”
She’s right but doubts persist in her mind. Is he the murderer? Is he possessed? She wants to believe in Josh and so they move into his childhood home with his mother Lorrain (Hershey).
“Nothing is going to bother us, not anymore,” Josh assures her but strange things start happening again and Renai witnesses them including seeing a woman in a white dress around the house who menaces her baby and physically attacks her…
Meanwhile the two paranormal investigators Specs (Whannell) and Tucker (Sampson) are picking up the pieces from their last investigation. In the process of doing so they make contact with the spirit of Elise (Shaye) and work with Carl to find out just what happened to Josh because events are going to take a very disturbing turn as more about the spirits surrounding Josh and his family.
As the title suggests the film starts immediately at the end of the first film, with the same characters and actors taking up their old roles in this haunted house film. Indeed, both this and the first Insidious can be watched as a single film which is why a lot of cinemas played the two features together. Essentially this is a case of more of the same in terms of scares and technique and background for a more fleshed out story.
A short pre-credit foray gives us more of Josh Lambert’s history before launching us directly into the action and it is the story which is the highlight with the characters and the mythology of the world to expand. In expanding the story the film loses a lot of its mystery and strangeness but has a huge palette of supernatural tropes like psychics, reality TV aesthetics and creepy kids to draw on. This is a double-edged sword because while it opens up the world there is the sense that the film is derivative of every other horror film, especially the first Insidious, is great and the scares are predictable.
The techniques from sound and set design to scares that are used in Insidious Chapter 2 are the same as in the first film. Everything is well designed, just familiar.
The locations are broken down hospitals, old creepy houses and other locations where the dead may gather. These cobwebby locations are stuffed full of creepy dolls, rocking horses that move of their own volition, and other everyday items that are made unnerving because they have been left to rot and gather dust. As we tour these places we get a soundtrack which alternates between silence for tense searches and shivery and violins which screech at the crescendo of a scare. Things are glimpsed just at the edge of the camera’s frame, ghosts flit in and out of shot and, generally the horrors lurk at the peripheral vision ready to pounce while shouting during the quiet moments.
As a horror veteran I found that there were no really creepy ghosts like Dancing Boy or The Long Haired Fiend and none of the great sequences or scares of the first film but it was still fun. Actually, one of the key ghosts was totally gorgeous and I was distracted by her.
Wow! I wouldn’t mind being haunted by her!
At this point these techniques are well-worn but James Wan knows how to stage a scare so there are chilling moments and lots of cool creepy imagery. Fans of the first film should enjoy this a lot because it adds to the world and its worth watching not least because it is still high quality horror just nothing fresh.
Images used in this review come from Screen Rant