Monday, September 16, 2013

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013) - A Creepy Ending to the Lamberts' Story

James Wan Once Again Creates A Wonderful World of Horror

Insidious: Chapter 2 horror
"Insidious: Chapter 2" (2013).

"Insidious" was the surprise Hollywood hit of 2011, being called the most profitable film of that year. Thus, it was no surprise that producer Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions, IM Global and the other financial backers of the original film wanted to continue the story of the original film, which was left open in classic cliffhanger fashion. They succeeded in bringing back director James Wan for "Insidious: Chapter 2" (2013), another look at the dark, mysterious happenings to the Lambert family, along the original cast: Patrick Wilson as father Josh, Rose Byrne as mother Renai, Ty Simpkins as haunted son Dalton, Lin Shaye as friend, Elise, and Barbara Hershey as Josh's mother Lorraine. Wan is a hot director, his "The Conjuring" (2013) being very well regarded, but he put a lot of himself into this sequel, and that attention shows in its high quality.

Insidious: Chapter 2 horror
Patrick Wilson as Josh comforts Dalton (Ty Simpkins) in "Insidious: Chapter 2."

"Insidious: Chapter 2" begins in flashback mode. Josh is a young boy, and his mother, Lorraine (young Lorraine played by Jocelin Donahue), is concerned because he is acting strangely. A medium, Carl (Hank Harris, later Steve Coulter), calls upon occult specialist Elise (Lindsay Seim plays young Elise) to help cure Josh. Elise discovers that an old woman has been appearing in photographs taken of Josh, and she tries to locate this mysterious character. Elise is led to Josh's closet, where she is scratched by something, and after that, everyone decides the best thing to do is just move on as if nothing had happened.

Insidious: Chapter 2 horror
Jocelin Donahue as young Lorraine in "Insidious: Chapter 2."

The scene flips to the present day. The police question Renai about Elise's death (killed by the demon inhabiting Josh in the first film). The family moves to Lorraine's house, but Renai starts seeing strange things at night again. She suspects that Josh, who has not been arrested for Elise's death, may still be haunted by the demon, but he acts normally and tells her not to worry.

Insidious: Chapter 2 horror
Elise and her team in "Insidious: Chapter 2."

When she gets up the next morning, Renai sees a stranger in the living room, a woman wearing a white dress. The woman attacks her and knocks her unconscious. Lorraine, meanwhile, visits Elise's team of occult specialists (Specs, played by Leigh Whannell, and Tucker, played by Angus Sampson). They visit Carl, who holds a seance to contact the deceased Elise. The seance gives them a lead, a certain hospital where Lorraine once worked. Lorraine discloses that when she had worked there, a patient named Parker Crane had castrated himself, then jumped off the roof of the hospital to his death. Investigating Crane's house, the team finds several odd newspaper clippings about a cross-dressing killer, along with related paraphernalia that strongly suggests that Crane was the killer, known as "The Dark Bride." The team also learns that Carl actually contacted Crane's own mother through the seance and not Elise.

Insidious: Chapter 2 horror
The Lamberts communicating with the dead in "Insidious: Chapter 2."

Josh tends to Renai, who recovers, but Lorraine returns home and insists that everyone get away from Josh because she believes he remains possessed by a demon. The real Josh, she says, is trapped in The Further, the realm of the demons. They leave, and Carl and Elise's team then arrive to subdue Josh. Unfortunately, Josh figures out what they are up to and stops them. Returning home, Lorraine is locked in a closet by Josh, while he attempts to kill Renai. Dalton arrives home just in the nick of time and knocks Josh with a baseball bat. They flee for safety to the basement, but they know they can't keep Josh out forever. Dalton decides the only way left is for him to go to sleep and return to The Further in order to find the real Josh and bring him back.

Insidious: Chapter 2 horror

Carl has a similar idea. He ventures into The Further and finds the real Josh. Together, they search for Elise, and they find her at the Lambert's old home. Their next stop is Parker's house, where they find him and uncover his secret. When Parker had been a boy, his mother had abused him because she wanted a girl. Parker's mother is nearby, and she disrupts the meeting. Josh attacks her, and he almost is killed by her, but Elise arrives and saves him, knocking out Parker's mother. Carl, Josh and Elise flee, finding Dalton. The three living people then return to their world, leaving Elise behind.

Insidious: Chapter 2 horror
If this isn't a standard horror film shot....

Josh in the real world is no longer possessed. Carl decides that they have been through too much trauma and hypnotizes them to forget their ability to astral project (go to The Further). The film ends with Elise's team investigating another spooky haunting, this time of a young girl.

Insidious: Chapter 2 horror
The makeup crew did a great job in "Insidious: Chapter 2"

"Insidious: Chapter 2" is a worthy heir to the original "Insidious." It feels like a real continuation of the original story, and was written by the same screenwriter, (who plays Specs). It is easy to be critical of sequels, because we all at least subconsciously feel as if we know what should happen next or what is believable as a follow-up, but the filmmakers wisely extended and broadened the story of "Insidious" rather than simply repeating it. "Insidious: Chapter 2" retains the low-budget creepiness of the original rather than substituting money earned from the original for imagination, and it works beautifully. You have the same sorts of scares from the first film and the same sense of foreboding. You also can read some symbolism into story, giving it depth: there is a recurring motif of closets and people being put into them, which underscores how the problems with Josh that were originally swept under the rug or put, so to speak, into a closet only returned later with a vengeance.

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At times, the special effects get out of control in "Insidious: Chapter 2."

There are some creative problems with "Insidious: Chapter 2", however. The whole idea of The Further is extended to the breaking point in the sequel. Rather than remaining some spooky and exotic place, by the end it becomes just another place where the characters go at will and do pretty much whatever they want in order to tie up loose ends. The creatures (the dead from all time - think about the real implications of that) in the Further wind up looking more pathetic than truly dangerous. Rather than taking over the living characters and acting upon them, the living in "Insidious: Chapter 2" turn the tables and instead act upon the inhabitants of The Further." That may be satisfying in terms of solving matters, but it also disrupts the entire chemistry from the original of innocent people desperately fighting for their lives against dark, mysterious, unconquerable forces. It becomes more a classic case of the living investigating a new but not particularly mysterious phenomenon, just as you would expect in real life, which is a lot less interesting than mysterious demons coming from some unknown place. The enemies in "Insidious: Chapter 2" wind up being simply weird people who suffer from prosaic problems, but just so happen to be dead - which doesn't matter, since the dead and the living turn out to be not very different at all anyway.

Insidious: Chapter 2 horror
The spooky atmosphere is the real star of "Insidious: Chapter 2."

To like and fully appreciate "Insidious: Chapter 2," you really do have to first watch "Insidious." Otherwise, all the references to The Further won't make much sense, nor will Dalton's sudden ability to go there. In fact, just to get specific about one thing as an example, one has to wonder why they go to all the trouble of having Dalton able to visit The Further at will (where did that come from?) when Carl already is there - it makes the whole idea of The Further a little less mysterious. In general, all sorts of horror film conventions once again are followed, such as the unbelievable notion that the characters would simply move on from the extremely traumatic denouement of "Insidious" without anyone being arrested or the arcs of the characters being interrupted at all. The impossible and indeed truly startling in its implications - communicating with the dead, let alone visiting them - is treated as some everyday occurrence with no ramifications beyond the characters and their immediate problems. The wrap-up to "Insidious: Chapter 2" is more of a let-down than a climax, which some will see as a similarity to the first film. Knock someone out and then run away - not very mysterious. Overall, the script is imaginative in places, but also a bit messy and formulaic in others. It could have used a few more drafts, to be honest.

Insidious: Chapter 2 horror
Behind the scenes in "Insidious: Chapter 2."

All quibbles aside, audiences loved "Insidious: Chapter 2." It won the box office race during its opening weekend and turned into another cash cow for the producers. With all that money floating around, another sequel might turn up at some point, though it appears that the story of the Lamberts has been pretty much decided. A continuation would likely follow Elise's team of spook hunters investigating and resolving another case, as strongly implied by the ending of "Insidious: Chapter 2." Anyone who has seen the first film should consider watching this worthy follow-up, and anyone considering seeing "Insidious: Chapter 2" most definitely should see "Insidious" first.



1 comment:

  1. Maybe this movie would have been scarier, had Wan just kept things simple and grounded. But nope, he had to get all crazy with the story. Good review James.