Because I’m working on my review of Insidious: The Last Key, why not revisit my thoughts on part 2 of this franchise? From Geek for e way back in 2013. Enjoy!
Remember how amazing The Exorcist was? Well, Insidious wasn’t exactly at that level of awesome, but it was pretty damn good. Remember how crappy Exorcist II: The Heretic was? Oh yeah. Same thing here. An amazing opening salvo, then a convoluted, sloppy mess of a sequel. It’s a shame, to see a Fangoria magazine Chainsaw Award-winning horror film devolve. It’s especially rough to see quality actors giving their all to a movie that feels like someone forgot what the plot was halfway in, and then just told everyone to wing it.
The initial premise of Insidious is that a demon has been hunting Josh Lambert (again played by Patrick Wilson), and being unable to possess him, tries it’s luck with his oldest son Dalton (Ty Simpkins). Wife/mother Renai (Rose Byrne) has to deal with all the demonic fallout, while trying to keep her other young children safe. When we last left the Lamberts, psychic Elise had been killed, presumably by Josh while he was possessed by…something. Lights out, credits roll.
In Insidious 2, things start off with a flashback to Josh’s days as a kid struggling with the ability to travel to other dimensions (a’yup; trust me though, it was spooky stuff in the original), something that brings ghosts a’runnin’ to him like moths to flame. His memory of this ability is wiped, as is the ability itself, by a younger Elise and her partner Carl. Josh’s mother (Barbara Hershey) decides that’s the best way to protect her son. Cut back to present day, and things start up exactly where they left off in the first film. Renai doesn’t know what or who to believe, and things are still spiritually wonky. With Elise dead, who will be able to solve the mystery of the Lamberts? I cut a ton of wandering out of that synopsis, mostly because it’d take too long to type but really? I just couldn’t be bothered.
The problem with Insidious 2 is that it shifts from a flat-out horror fest to a “why-dunnit” mystery. What’s going on, and why? Who is haunting them? What can they do about it? It’s an Agatha Christie novel with the spirit realm thrown in, if Ms. Christie lost her way around the story every ten minutes or so. The movie splits it’s time between Josh’s quest to get back to his family (and the possessed Josh trying to free himself from his own bit of micro-management) and the women of the family trying to figure out what the heck is going on. Doing this keeps things a bit more structured, but instead of building suspense, the plot switches back and forth too often to develop any real spooky. It’s more like spooky lite, or mildly interesting. I kept thinking that if Wilson and Byrne weren’t in this film, it’d be a direct-to-video release. At least it feels like it.
Director James Wan did a fantastic job with Insidious. He did a fantastic job with Saw. Ditto for The Conjuring. So where did Insidious 2 trip up? Did Wan pour all of his love into The Conjuring earlier this year, so there was nothing but barrel-bottom scrapings left? Did he get so sucked into this story that he couldn’t see that Insidious 2 can’t stand on it’s own (seriously, for anyone to get even the slightest bit of a chill, the first film is an absolute must for atmosphere. And because it’s so much better.) Plus, the spooky red-faced demon that made appearances in the first film? Nowhere to be seen. Instead they focus on a plotline that feels like Norman Bates Meets Jack Torrence. Been there, done that, seen better.
This Friday the 13th, go see Insidious 2 if you must. Or if you don’t really want to get scared, but still kinda want the trappings of a horror film to celebrate the spooky day. Hey, sometimes you just want a nice, quiet ride back home without feeling the need to check the back seat. With Insidious 2, mission accomplished.