Review: Insidious: Chapter Two (2013)


Cast: , ,
Director: James Wan
Country: USA
Genre: Horror | Thriller
Official Trailer: Here

Editor’s Notes: Insidious: Chapter 2 is now open in wide release. For a Rewind Review of Insidious, check out Josh’s review here. For another perspective, check out Mel’s review here.

This past summer the box office belonged to James Wan. His haunted house film The Conjuring managed to scare enough people out of their admission price to stay in the number one spot for a few weeks running. His follow up film, Insidious: Chapter 2 should do just as well, but not for the same reasons. This sequel to 2011’s Insidious picks up the story immediately. We join Renai and Josh Lambert (Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson) as they try to put their family back together following the harrowing, ghostly experiences they went through trying to save their son from the black, limbo that is the “Further” (yes, that’s what they called it). The reason this film should be successful is not just because it has virtually no competition in this pre-Oscar film season, but because it just might be the funniest comedy of the year. Seriously, it’s a gut buster.

insidiouschap2-2Whether it was intentionally tongue in cheek or not, James Wan has crafted one of the funniest films of the year. The dialogue is goofy and expository, the performances across the board are hokey, and the music is ridiculous. But it all works. The horror formula is painfully obvious and superficial. There are no surprises in this film whatsoever. Subtlety wasn’t a consideration here, especially when it comes to the soundtrack. The violins are teetering on the edge at all moments ready to give us a loud sting with every movement. It’s amazing.

The film centres on Josh’s latent astral projection capabilities. As a child Josh was very active in his sleeping state, travelling to the “Further” every night with an old woman as a guide. This obviously worried his mother, who invited a psychic medium to attempt to help Josh control his abilities. It was decided that Josh was just too powerful and his talents needed to be suppressed, so the medium hypnotized Josh and wiped his memory clean. Flash-forward and it’s clear that after his brief visit to the “Further” as an adult in the last chapter, Josh isn’t quite himself. Renai suspects that the ghosts are still around, but she can’t get Josh to listen to her. After a little back and forth, we get the basic rundown of a flimsy story involving a long dead serial killer with a coincidental link to the Lambert family who is trying to rejoin the land of the living. It’s all very terrifying I’m sure.

The reason this film should be successful is not just because it has virtually no competition in this pre-Oscar film season, but because it just might be the funniest comedy of the year.

The plot, such as it is, manages to be very simple, yet overly complicated at the same time. Despite attempts to tie it to what should supposedly be referred to as “Chapter One”, it really makes very little sense. The Back to the Future method of linking parts one and two was interesting, even if it did seem like a last minute addition. The focus seems to shift between characters at random, hanging out with Rose Byrne for twenty minutes or so and then moving on to Barbara Hershey for a little while, before popping back in on Patrick Wilson to see what he’s been up to. It’s so oddly misplaced and out of sequence that it somehow makes sense.

Patrick Wilson delivers a wretchedly wooden performance for the first forty minutes but he gradually becomes overblown and melodramatic. Again, this can only have been a conscious choice, and it’s masterful. He is so ridiculous throughout the course of this film that taking your eyes off of him isn’t a possibility.

insidiouschap2-3The addition of Carl (Steve Coulter) as the newly introduced medium is wonderful. Here we get a stodgy old man who is reminiscent of Roddy McDowell from Hell House. While Coulter delivers a fine, one-note performance, it’s his beard prosthetic that deserves the real praise. Never has fake facial hair basked so gloriously in its obvious falsehood than it does here.

The film has the manufactured atmosphere that is present in most horror films. It feels flimsy and unnatural. Sometimes this can add to the experience of a film, but here it only serves to remind us how silly the whole endeavor is.

All silliness aside, this film is massively entertaining. Horror fans will be disappointed at the complete lack of originality, or horror, but hopefully they’ll be too busy laughing out loud to notice. This is by no means a slight: the purpose of a film like this is to entertain the audience, and this is a huge success.

80/100 ~ GREAT. Whether it was intentionally tongue in cheek or not, James Wan has crafted one of the funniest films of the year.

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Graeme Maitland

Staff Film Critic
I've been working in film exhibition for a very long time. I studied film at university and I watch far too many movies. At least 2 movies a day. I like to think about movies and I like to write about movies. I'm looking forward to doing more of both. I also like kittens.

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