The haunted Lambert family seeks to uncover the mysterious childhood secret that has left them dangerously connected to the spirit world.
Success is a bitch sometimes. I’m opening this review with those words because I think that extreme success can make a person lazy & perhaps disdainful of their craft after awhile. James Wan is the director of 2011’s highly successful (& very scary) Insidious. He’s also the director of this year’s extremely successful (& even scarier) The Conjuring. He’s also the director behind Saw (2004), Dead Silence (2007) & Death Sentence (2007). And he’s directing the next installment of the Fast and the Furious series as well. It’s more than safe to say that the dude is a success. Why am I recounting Mr. Wan’s success? Because his latest film, Insidious: Chapter Two opened today and after watching it I’m guessing that his success is indeed becoming something of a bitch…
Insidious: Chapter 2 starts off pretty much from the exact point that the first installment left us, with the Lambert family realizing that the nightmare they thought was over was really only getting warmed up. Josh Lambert (A returning Patrick Wilson) is now the host to someone or something which followed him back from The Further and is threatening the safety of his wife Renai (Rose Byrne) and children. Also returning from the first film are paranormal investigators Specs (Leigh Whannell) & Tucker (Angus Sampson) who summarily recruit a man named Carl (Steve Coulter) to help them find out exactly what is plaguing the Lambert family this time around.
But all they had to do was watch the first film over again since this one is pretty much a carbon copy of it! And herein lies the problem, I2 feels a lot like a barely disguised remake of the original and not a better version of it either. It’s nearly the same exact film with the father being the family member that’s being plagued by malevolent spirits instead of his son. I2 also features quite a bit of flashback scenes as well, enough of them to make me think I was watching the first film instead of its sequel.
Wan and Whannell (Who wrote the script) made a critical error in forcing in as many Jump Scares as they could cram in about 100 minutes or so. They used them so effectively in both Insidious & The Conjuring that I guess they figure that they must be some type of experts at it by now. But they were successful in those earlier films because they were nearly all unexpected. In I2, I predicted every single one of them seconds before they actually happened, an example of laziness perhaps? There are some half hearted attempts at humor in the script but none of them hit their marks. The plot manages to remain servicable for the first half of the film but it veers wildly off the tracks during the 2nd half. So much so that I was at a loss as to what was going on more than a few times (Although I did figure it out eventually).
The Ghosts/Spirits that populate the film look like some extremely shrill actor/actresses slathered from head to toe in either gray pancake makeup or ghostly white makeup, there is no in between. They aren’t the least bit scary and when used in conjunction with his jump scares they’re actually kind of funny. There are no evil doers remotely resembling that silly Darth Maul creature featured so heavily in Insidious either (Say what you will but that dude was creepy). There were a couple of moments in which I jumped up out of my seat but that was when I caught my head flopping over to the side as I was being lulled to sleep by this stinker. And don’t even get me started on the music (By Joseph Bishara) which sounds exactly like the music from every film that Wan has directed.
The film’s few saving graces are in it’s cinematography (By John R. Leonetti) and its lead actors. The film looks sleek and is edited in a harsh but effective way. It doesn’t feel like a lot of it was left on the cutting room floor anyway. All of the actors do their best to bring the material up to where it might actually scare someone and although they fail miserably, they give it the old college try. Wilson & Lin Shaye (Who returns from the first film even though she died at the end of it) make the most of what they have with Wilson re-enacting Jack Nicholson’s best scene in The Shining pretty convincingly! The cast is strong because they’ve all returned from the first film and are comfortable with their respective characters.
But are Wan & Whannell comfortable with the characters they’ve created? Much of I2 feels like a made for cable movie with little to no suspense or scares. It doesn’t have the spark that the original had, it doesn’t have any life to it. It just sits there like a lump because it knows the masses are gonna flock to it this weekend anyway. It doesn’t have to be good or original to make money, it just has to be. When I called Wan a success I meant it! The Conjuring was a major hit at the box office and critically lauded as perhaps one of the scariest movies of all time. Maybe he just got a little lazy after receiving all of the accolades that were bandied about him. Maybe he was so focused on TC that he had little to no time left to make I2 a good film. Maybe he just doesn’t care anymore? I mean he’s being bandied about as a true master of horror yet this film feels like it was made by a committee, not a director.
Has success indeed become something of a bitch for Mr. Wan? Will he approach the Fast and the Furious franchise with more energy and imagination than he’s used here? Maybe, but I’m gonna theorize that Insidious: Chapter 2 had the unfortunate problem of being scheduled between Wan’s newfound popularity and demand. Coming in after his greatest success to date (The Conjuring) & his first big budget action film (Fast and the Furious 7). I think this film fell in between the cracks and was never given the attention it deserved, which is shameful considering how successful the first installment was. But it will draw in the crowds this weekend and I’m positive that more than a few of the people in that crowd are gonna love it so the hinted at sequel to I2 will probably happen eventually.
I just hope Wan & Whannell aren’t gonna be involved with it next time around because as it stands Insidious: Chapter 2 is the biggest disappointment of the year. And parents have to let go of their kids eventually anyway right?
Insidious: Chapter 2– 1.5 out of 5 shrouds.
Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)