Friday, November 07, 2014

Horror Thoughts ‘14—Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013) **

PG-13, 109 min.
Director: James Wan
Writers: Leigh Whannell (also characters), James Wan
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Barbara Hershey, Steve Coulter, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson

I was a fan of the original “Insidious”. I very much enjoyed the way director James Wan played with lighting and sound to create a film where it was impossible to escape the frights it contained. I liked its unique take on the haunted house story by presenting a different kind of poltergeist that haunted individuals instead of merely their dwellings. It did a good job handling the horror standby of the child in peril. It had a nice smattering of humor to prevent it from becoming overly oppressive. And frankly, I had trouble getting its images out of my head when I went to bed that night.

“Insidious: Chapter 2” goes to another horror franchise standby by telling what is supposed to be the rest of the story to a story that was clearly told and finished in the first film. To its credit, the production retains all of the key filmmakers from the first chapter. James Wan is back to direct. Leigh Whannell once again pens the screenplay and plays half of the comic relief team. But, the originality of the first film is lacking in this one.

Picking up right where the first left off, we once again find our family is being haunted by a presence. A flashback scene informs us that the husband has had dealing with the deceased ghost hunter from the first film before. She encountered him as a child and repressed his ability to see and communicate with the dead. If they stopped the demon from the first film from taking their son, what is haunting them now? Unfortunately, the answer is less impressive than it was in the first film.

In fact, nearly everything is less impressive this time around. The soundscape isn’t as dynamic. The atmosphere isn’t as vibrant or haunting. And yet somehow it all feels as if it’s trying twice as hard to be shocking and volatile. There is a ghost who is so overdramatic it brings the audience out of the creepy atmosphere every time the filmmakers make the mistake of allowing her to speak. The reunion of characters within the netherworld also borders on the feeling of a reunion of the cast members of a hit 80’s TV show. There are still some pretty good frights here, and in a film that wasn’t a follow up to the first “Insidious” the storyline would be perfectly frightening, but the first film left a good deal to live up to. This one doesn’t quite get there.

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