Patrick Wilson - Josh Lambert
Rose Bryne - Renai Lambert
Ty Simpkins - Dalton Lambert
Lin Shaye - Elise Ranier
Barbara Hershey - Lorraine Lambert
Steve Coulter - Carl
Leigh Whannell - Specs
Angus Sampson - Tucker
Andrew Astor - Foster Lambert
Genre - Horror/Supernatural/Ghosts/Demons
Running Time - 105 Minutes
INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 begins with a prologue from 1986, where a young Elise Ranier (Lindsay Seim) first meets Lorraine (Jocelin Donahue) and young Josh (Garrett Ryan) Lambert during when Josh realized he had the ability to astral project himself into The Further. The film quickly picks up where INSIDIOUS had left off, with Elise (Lin Shaye) having been strangled to death by Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) to his wife's, Renai's (Rose Byrne) horror. Renai knows that Josh isn't capable of murder, realizing that some other spirit has possessed his body as she doesn't recognize her husband anymore. In fact, Renai sees a woman in a black veil haunting her mother-in-law's home in which they're now staying. As Renai is freaked out that her husband may not be who he claims he is, Josh's mother (Barbara Hershey) gathers the help of paranormal investigators Specs (Leigh Whannell), Tucker (Angus Sampson), and Elise's first partner Carl (Steve Coulter) to figure out what's going on. Realizing that Josh is still stuck in the Further and finding out the spirit possessing Josh's body, the group knows that they're in more danger than ever before.
+ I really enjoyed the acting in INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2. Patrick Wilson carried the film quite well as Josh. I liked how he portrayed the struggle of both Josh in the Further, as well as the possessed Josh who became more Jack Torrence like as the film progressed. Wilson has become quite the player in the horror genre recently, which helps the genre since Wilson is more than capable as an actor. Rose Bryne didn't get to do much this time around, unfortunately, as Renai. But her fear and confusion was pretty great whenever she was on screen. And Ty Simpkins was still pretty good as Dalton, although he doesn't get all that much to do this time around either.
The reality is that INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 belongs to the supporting characters, for better or worse. Barbara Hershey gets a higher profile here than she did in the first film, providing a subtle performance as Josh's mother, Lorraine. Screenwriter Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson provide the comic relief as Specs and Tucker. With the two having a bigger spotlight here, the sequel is definitely played more for laughs at times rather than scares. Steve Coulter is also good as Carl, pretty much taking over the Elise role for most of the film. And Lin Shaye does well again as Elise. The story may not have worked entirely, but the acting was pretty solid.
+ While not as good as in THE CONJURING [still the James Wan film of the year], Wan's direction in INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 is still very good. The picture quality looks beautiful. The editing and pacing was good. The film relies more on jump scares, which worked more often than not. And the lighter tone was pretty evident as the film ran on, which made it feel different from the more serious and darker INSIDIOUS.
- Issues with the direction? There's no real style here. INSIDIOUS had a lot of cool style that added to the atmosphere of the film. THE CONJURING's biggest highlight was the visual presentation, carrying a foreboding feel that would creep you out. Even DEAD SILENCE, my least favorite Wan film, had visual style that kept you engaged. But INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 fell a bit flat for me visually. I don't know what it was. I never felt any real tension or suspense. The way the visuals were presented were pretty bland compared to what Wan had done before. Maybe Wan really is bored of the horror genre, because the visuals didn't wow me or make me feel something genuine in this sequel. I guess the lighter tone didn't help either, since I loved that the first film took itself seriously and really wanted to give you goosebumps. The sequel should have taken everything that was right about the first film and raised the volume by 10. CHAPTER 2 didn't really do that for me, even if Wan did direct a competent film.
+ I like the mystery surrounding Josh, who was possessing his body, and why Dalton was involved in the first film. Since everything was pretty much given away in INSIDIOUS, the angle as to what really happened to Josh at the end of the film was the screenplay's strongest point. I'm not going to spoil anything, but I enjoyed the investigation parts of the story, as well as how it played with the timeline when it came to the Lambert family's history with demonic spirits. The actual reveal and the backstory was pretty clever as well, and the villains did come across as threats. It also helped that the mystery took itself really seriously, matching the tone created in the first film. It grounded the story and gave it a reason to exist - when it reality it probably shouldn't.
- However, the rest of the story fell flat. It's not because the characters were bad [some were shortchanged, unfortunately] or the script was written terribly [which it wasn't]. It was because there was a lot going on that never really connected in a cohesive way until the very end. The story was a bit all over the place, with multiple subplots that probably gave certain characters more time than others that deserved that time.
The three acts couldn't have been any more different. The first act was the set up, to the point where it almost felt like filler and repetition to what happened in the first film. The second act was pretty much the investigative portion, which I dug. But the characters pretty much just walked around for most of it, trying to make the exposition interesting. And the third act was the horror show. I enjoyed the story for what it was, but I thought it took way too long to get where it was going.
I also felt the Lambert family felt like supporting characters, while the side characters took the lead here. INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 really should have been Josh's story and his struggle to return back to his body. But you got people cutting jokes, and the supporting characters taking chunks of time to figure out what's going on. Renai was criminally underused. The existence of that middle child [Foster] still irks me, because he doesn't really have much of a purpose. And the journey to get Josh back to his original body felt a bit forced and uneven.
But I still liked the narrative. Just wish it was more cohesive and tighter.
THE FINAL HOWL
I liked the first INSIDIOUS more, but CHAPTER 2 isn't terrible either. The story brings the sequel down unfortunately, although I did enjoy the mystery aspect of what's going on with a certain character. James Wan's performance behind the camera lacked style compared to his other works [THE CONJURING is a stronger movie visually], but it was still pretty good. The acting was pretty great though, especially by Patrick Wilson carrying the film. But CHAPTER 2 wants to share so many things about the situation that the story feels forced at times. While inferior to INSIDIOUS, CHAPTER 2 is still a good, entertaining, watchable sequel that will definitely find its audience.