2011’s Insidious is a film that I mostly enjoy, at least enough to make it a part of my Blu-Ray collection. It has a few good scares, some decent acting, and a plot that I generally like…up until the ending when it gets cartoon-y on us. The cliffhanger at the end isn’t too bad, but the entire middle-end section that takes place in “The Further” is a complete joke. So coming off of that, I was never excited when I heard that a sequel was being made. How can you improve after leaving the last film on such a sour note? Still, like I said, the first one was still mostly good (for perspective, I would probably give it a 3 or 3.5 out of 5-star rating), so I saw the sequel, albeit with pretty low expectations…and what do you know? It is a much better film!
Insidious: Chapter 2 almost literally picks up immediately after the events of the first film, which is nice because it means that we don’t have to become acclimated to an awkward time jump. The story is that something followed Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) back from The Further when he went in to rescue his son – an evil entity that nearly claimed Josh when he was a child before his mother (Barbara Hershey) had his memories of the entity and of his ability to astral project wiped by Elise Ranier (Lin Shaye) and Carl (Steve Coulter). Josh must fight to maintain control over his body so that he can keep his family safe, but the struggle is greater than he could ever imagine, leaving no one safe from the spirits haunting his family…or from Josh himself.
Let’s start by pointing out the things that improved from the original: the character development is better here – Josh’s slow descent from loving father into spirit-possessed madman bent on killing his family is chilling – and the sloppily-compiled The Further has been embraced and bettered by using it as a means to explain some of the unexplained events from the first film and to tie it in more deeply with the events seen in the sequel. And, perhaps most importantly, the “Lipstick-Face Demon” is nowhere to be seen! The focus is less on scares here and more on good storytelling, which is always a relief. Seeing Elise return was nice because I did really enjoy her character in the first film, and using her to learn more about the demons/spirits made the story both more interesting and more emotionally scary.
The most impressive part of this film is that it is good from start to finish, which is more than can be said about its predecessor. Rose Byrne as Josh’s wife brings an emotional performance to the table here, but the best performance of the film comes from Patrick Wilson as Josh – he plays the character with such conviction that his gradual corruption is as heart-breaking as it is terrifying. True, the overall scares may not be as frequent or as intense here, but Insidious: Chapter 2 somehow manages to take the weak ending of the first film and turn it into something that works surprisingly well, weaving a well-crafted web of good storytelling and fascinating characters that makes me excited at the prospects of the hinted-at sequel focusing on a new family.
Rating: 4 (out of 5)
MPAA: PG-13 – for intense sequences of terror and violence, and thematic elements