Saturday, December 21, 2013

Film Review: Insidious: Chapter 2

Copyright: Stage 6 Films
Lucid dreaming combined with the ability to contact “the other side” is for me a great movie formula. In this film, James Wan revisits the world of malicious ghosts set on acquiring life through the act of possession of the living. Lambert family, fresh from their first meet with the ghost world, tries to get back to normality, in spite of the fact that the previous medium Elise was murdered in their home. Josh Lambert is determined to push on while his wife Renai, along with Josh's mother, suspects that the ordeal isn’t truly over. It’s not long before they realize something much more sinister is taking place, and decide to get some help.

Insidious: Chapter 2 follows the same formula as its predecessor, but this time Wan decided to add another element to the mix. This new element is the Specs/Tucker duo, former associates of Elise and something of a small ghost busting team. 

Wan uses them as a comic relief, and even worse, they present it through slapstick gags that are better suited for a Scooby-Doo episode (slowly turning around to see a ghooost! and corny stuff like that). Because of that they stick out in every scene like a bad mashup that someone else made from a regular horror film and a bad comedy. This absence of humor worked well in Insidious, and I’m not sure why Wan felt that the sequel needed it in any way. For me, without a question, it doesn’t work at all.

The rest of the film is Wan horror standard. The story gets complicated as it unfolds, and involves several flashbacks from The Shining. Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne still work great as the Lamberts, and I was really impressed how Steve Coulter presented Carl. In the film, Carl is also a medium and a longtime friend of Elise, and he uses dices to communicate with the dead. Coulter toned-down, rational presentation of Carl is one of the reasons why Specs/Tucker didn’t completely kill every onscreen minute in which they are present. 

Like its predecessor, this film becomes interesting and a lot more exciting when the action moves to the realm of astral projections. In these fragments, the story shifts toward a supernatural adventure/thriller, while remaining true to its horror setting. In the domain of dreams and ghost apparitions, characters are granted the ability to move through time and space. Because of this, events from the first third of the film only get explained later on, when Wan shows the same things, but from the dream world perspective. Leigh Whannell, who also wrote Insidious, is obviously very good at this kind of “double reality” interplay.

Insidious: Chapter 2 is not as good as The Conjuring, in spite of the fact that Wan pulled all his regular stops. The creepiness and terror are still here, but the unsuccessful comedy took this film a notch or two down for me.