My relationship with James Wan has, regretably, not been long-running. It started in the year 2013 when there was a horror movie playing in theaters that I decided to go check out. I was then given some of the greatest 112 minutes of my life. The Conjuring was an important introduction to a filmmaker I had never been familiar with. I watched Saw III once, but that’s a pretty distant connection. The next plausible step for me was to watch Insidious, because I’d always heard good things about it. I sat myself down, clicked that shiny play button, and was sucked into one of the greatest god damn things in the whole universe. I really love Insidious. God damn. Enter Insidious: Chapter 2. After the giant wave of love had washed over me from the first film, I was pretty excited to see this one. Got me a ticket, got to that theater, and got to the enjoyment.
Insidious: Chapter 2 picks up exactly where the first one ended. We’re first given a flashback of Josh (Patrick Wilson) as a child being visited by Elise (Lin Shaye), a friendly ghost whisperer, about the spooky stuff that’s giving him nightmares. Then we flash forward and get a scene of Josh’s wife, Renai (Rose Byrne) talking to a police chief about the events that happened at the end of the first Insidious (to which I’ll keep a secret in case you haven’t seen it because it’s SO GOOD). Flash back to that moment from the end of the first film, and the movie kicks off from there, where our characters are already in the thick of it. This is my first issue with Insidious: Chapter 2 that I tried hard not to make an issue to me but ultimately still bothered me. As it’s named, Insidious: Chapter 2 is, well… Chapter 2. The characters have already been put in a compromising situation, and thus there is minimal build-up to the terrible things that happen to them. Things just are… already there (I believe the piano plays itself after only 15 minutes). The chills are still chilly, and the spookies are still spooktastic, but there’s nothing to hold on to as a standalone experience because everything starts happening immediately. The best way to see this movie is probably to edit it on to the very end of Insidious and let it roll from there. A break between viewings really just makes Insidious: Chapter 2 feel like it’s all moving too fast.
Patrick Wilson does a lot to fix this, and gets almost this whole movie to himself. He brings it all in as we watch him get crazier and meaner and scarier and SPOOKY and then violent. There’s a special scene between him and Carl (a former partner of Elise in the ghost-fighting business) that is just super magical. James Wan’s beautiful direction also plows this thing forward. That guy knows how to make scary shit look super pretty. Leigh Whannell’s script gets a little jumbled as the movie explores more of “the further” (the world within our world that’s full of all the creepy dead stuff) and what exactly you can do in it.
There’s also a part when Patrick Wilson’s mother (Barbara Hershey) runs around a spooky abandoned hospital with Carl and the two comedic-relief ghostbuster-types from the first film, with occassional cuts to the ghost-dude’s cameras to add a bit of found-footage horror element to it. The whole movie just sort of jumps around, and the ending is a lot less satisfying than it’s predecessor (with a final scene setting up a sequel that probably won’t happen). But still, there’s something in there that still got me, be it the performances, the directing, or even some of that spooky ghost-backstory (we learn a BIT about one of the spookies and how they’re life while they were alive was a BIT completely fucked).
Compared to the lack-of Best Boy from the first film, Insidious: Chapter 2 does not disappoint in that regard. What’s-his-name does a good job at whatever the fuck Best Boy’s even do.
I’m recently realizing that I love horror, and James Wan does a damn good job at giving me what I’m looking for. Even when Insidious: Chapter 2 stumbled around, I was still enjoying it. Because fuck it.
7 heads of lettuce out of 10.