Director James Wan‘s “Insidious” was a horror film that had a strong first half; as it was able to generate a feeling of creepiness in the first half but then the second half became a little too uneven, as I felt that the film became a parody of itself. Nonetheless, I thought the atmosphere was spot on with “Insidious” and James Wan once again proved to be capable horror director with his most recent film “The Conjuring”. It is with this state of mind that I went to see “Insidious: Chapter 2”, but sadly, because of the writing, this sequel just could not come even close to the quality of the first movie.
The film begins with a trip back in time as we see a young Josh (Garrett Ryan) and his mother (Jocelin Donahue) trying to deal with some paranormal issues that they seek the help of Elise (Lindsay Seim) and Carl (Hank Harris) in their younger years. Then we find the Lambert family reeling from Elise Rainier’s (Lin Shaye) death. From then on, we see the Lamberts trying to get their lives together. They moved to a new house but then, Renai (Rose Byrne) begins to suspect that something is wrong with her husband Josh (Patrick Wilson, The Conjuring). It seems like that even with their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) awake from his coma, a sense that something evil may have followed them into their home. Well, this is because the entities still want something the Lamberts have and that is they are still breathing.
I know the first movie left several questions unanswered, but this was part of its charm; it became a story with the unknown with several things left hanging. My problems with it come from the fact that it just had so many references that it started to feel like a parody of horror movies and of itself. I thought that this second movie was going to offer explanations that would make things better and present a well-rounded story, but sadly, I just couldn’t get into the screenplay by Leigh Whannel. It wasn’t that it did not have potential because it does have a lot going for it, but the way it flowed felt rather shaky, and despite areas that presented imaginative devices, they weren’t executed very well and just could not connect. It spent a little too much time trying to 'explain' rather than developing its story, and that can be a real flaw in a horror movie.
Horror is a tricky thing, you can have all the atmosphere and the correct scare tactics and yet, if you have a flat script, you can never deliver a feeling of suspense and generate creepiness. The characters here also lost most of their charm and they felt very weak, and other than Elise, supporting characters were dull and boring. They were all stereotypes, and the comic relief presented by the Spec and Tucker (Leigh Whannel and Angus Sampson) characters were very forced and did little to advance its script. To make things worst, they became rather annoying with the way they delivered the humor as any comedy they tried to do became rather monotonous. Not sure, but the two characters were fillers and the film could’ve done better without the stupid comic relief, they presented a problem with its mood and tone.
I could not really give major spoilers, but the script presented some twists and turns, and yet it did not have the right presentation. The film offers explanations by going back and forth in time, and by doing so, the effect of the first movie became none-existent and gives this sequel with very little room to go. The more the film goes on, the less interest I lacked. It was as if it was trying to apply a science to something meant to be unexplained. I know, this could’ve been good, but the way these elements were offered just did not work. I also did not like the way it gave an obligatory cliffhanger to the film’s finale; it felt very cheap and it made me roll my eyes. The script was very clumsy with very little room to go and they just could not develop intensity and suspense in the final act.
It was sad that despite the fact that the performances were kind of strong, Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne just could not save the film from its screenplay. They both did well, and they were able to do the best they could with the material. Byrne was limited to her role as Renai, but she was convincing and she did have some good scenes, but her character just did not feel the same as before and wasn’t interesting. Wilson did well with two seeming ‘roles’; granted his time onscreen was limited, but he made do with what he had. Too bad Barbara Hershey and Steve Coulter were hampered with the two idiots who made stupid comic relief, since they could’ve made something good with their characters and scenes.
James Wan still was able to create the proper atmosphere and the film did feel like a horror film. The more you got into the film, the more it draws you in with his use of shadows and a clever color palette. I also loved the way he used the camerawork to exude simple creepy scares without even trying. I saw most of his movies, but I have began to wonder if Wan had obsessions about dolls and wardrobes. They seemed to have become a common staple in his movies. As good as the set pieces were, the sound just did not match its quality, and lacked that power of ‘eeekkk’.
After “The Conjuring” and the original “Saw”, “Insidious The Second Chapter” feels more like a flop in Wan’s resume. It just wasn’t intense, fails to present a sense of eeriness, and it did not have any strong points of suspense. I know, the script was just too flawed and did not succeed in moving the story forward, and it failed to leave me a satisfied feeling after its viewing. It should have left things in the first film alone, rather than trying to dissect everything in it, it should have developed its core plot by going forward and create new creepy material. I guess the screenwriter wanted to do “Back to the Future”- supernatural horror style, and while I understood its intentions, it just failed. Lesson: don’t try to do something that is not needed. This sequel becomes a lame-stream horror flick that is very empty. Nothing to see here, but if you don’t believe me, go ahead and give it a RENTAL first. [2 Out of 5 Stars]