Thursday, September 19, 2013

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013) (Spoiler Review)

**This review contains spoilers**

In the 1980’s, Lorraine Lambert (Jocelin Donahue) seeks the help of a paranormal investigator named Elise (Lindsay Seim), when her young son, Josh (Garrett Ryan) experiences unexplainable phenomenons. With the help of her assistant, Carl (Hank Harris) Elise is able to find the source of Josh’s hauntings, which confirm the real presence of a ghostly woman in a black wedding dress, who appears in photos with Josh. With Elise’s help, Josh is able to block and suppress his dark childhood memories of the haunting, and the woman in the black wedding dress.

Years later as a grown man, Josh (Patrick Wilson), under the possession of the woman in the black wedding dress, murders Elise (Lin Shaye), after Josh unknowingly returned to the living world followed by the woman. Josh’s doesn’t have time to enjoy the relief and happiness after rescuing his son, Dalton (Ty Simpkins) from The Further, because with an ongoing police investigation, Josh and his family are forced to move into his child hood home, which is also his mother, Lorraine’s (Barbara Hershey) current home, while the cops inspect The Lambert’s home for clues.

But after a while, it becomes clear Josh hasn’t done enough to distance himself from the dark forces that continue to plague his life. With growing suspicions from his wife, Renai (Rose Byrne), Josh struggles to fight off the evil force, who’s trying to possess his body, and harm his sons Dalton and Foster (Andrew Astor), Renai, and Josh’s infant daughter. With Elise dead, Carl (Steve Coulter) returns with help from Elise’s trusted assistants Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson). After some digging and research one thing becomes clear: the woman in the black wedding dress has returned to finish what she started with Josh, and kill off his entire family. So with his living body possessed by the woman, Josh works with Carl, and Elise’s spirit in The Further to find the answers he’ll need to save his life, and his family.

Zero complaints from the cast. Insidious was elevated by a handful of strong performances, and nothing changes here, with Rose Byrne taking the honor for the top spot. Also, Whannell and Sampson provided most of the comic relief again, as Tucker and Specs (Tucker and Specs using The Bear VS The Ninja as their version of rock-paper-scissors was hilarious). And yes, different actors and actresses portray the younger versions of the main characters (Josh, Elise, Lorraine, etc.), but Donahue and Ryan are the only two, who receive a significant amount of screen time after the intro.

I love James Wan, but Chapter 2 is lacking a lot of the atmospheric tension that made Insidious a great film. In Chapter 2, Wan gives you a more thorough and in-depth look at The Further (the spirit world where all the ghosts live). On one hand, giving the audience a step by step walk through for different parts of The Further ties up a lot of loose ends in the original, and it’s a treat for people, who wanted to see more of The Further, because Josh didn’t make the trip into The Further until the very end of the film in part one.

The bad side? The Further is not scary or spooky at all. In Insidious, the less is more approach worked better, because you didn’t see that much of The Further. In Chapter 2, about 80% of the movie takes place in The Further. Sorry, but wooden horses covered in cobwebs, rocking back and forth by themselves, ghosts with pasty make up, and a wrinkly, naked old man (the darkness covers his private parts, but he’s still naked) aren’t scary.

Which brings me to another problem in Chapter 2: too many unintentionally funny moments. The old man repeating “He’s got your baby! He’s got your baby! He’s got your baby!” is the most obvious one you’ve all seen in the trailers and TV spots, and the pale faced woman standing up, turning around, and screaming while pointing is another good example. Specs and Tucker are okay, because they’re supposed to be funny, and add some comedy for breathing room. But everything else is too much, and I can’t count the number of times I laughed, when I wasn’t supposed to.

Remember the woman in the black wedding dress, who haunted Josh in the first film? Well, she makes a return here….but she is a he. A man named Parker Crane, who was a patient of Lorraine’s, when she worked at a hospital, was tormented by his mother as a child, because she wanted a daughter. As a child, Parker’s mom forced her son to look, act, and dress like a girl. As a deranged man (for obvious reasons), Parker continued dressing like a woman, wearing make up and a black wedding dress, transforming himself into a murderer, so he could fulfill his mother’s wishes. So the pasty faced woman you all saw in the trailers is Parker’s mom, and the woman isn’t a woman. Truth be told, I enjoyed this twist. I really appreciated Chapter 2’s effort to provide a VERY thorough  back story for the woman in the black wedding dress, his mother, and the reasons behind his motivations to become a killer.

So yeah, Insidious Chapter 2 deserves a lot of credit for tying up some loose ends in the first film. I loved the first film, but it’s hard to ignore the “How did that happen?” questions that pop up every now and then. Behind the camera, Wan uses a crafty technique that blends events and footage from the first film into the present during Chapter 2, as Josh tries to retrace his steps in The Further to save his family. Chapter 2 put a lot of effort into filling in some of the holes in original, and I appreciate this approach, because you rarely (if ever) see this type of effort in sequels, especially horror sequels.

The stuff with The Further? That’s another story.  I already went on a little rant about the unscary atmosphere in Insidious’ spirit world, and things get a little bit too complex for my taste here. So apparently, Josh, as a kid, pointed his older self in the right direction to find out more information surrounding the woman in black. Okay. So apparently time travel is apart of The Further now? Because Josh (as an adult) is able to go back to the haunting events in the first film, and save his family? On top of that, we’re lead to believe Carl might be dead, because he’s in The Further. But Elise disproves this theory, because she felt Carl’s “heartbeat,”  when she hugged him?

Also, Josh, Elise, and Carl are able to watch childhood events with Parker (as a child) and his mother, and somehow, Parker’s mother has super natural powers in The Further, but Josh (a normal, living human) is stronger than Parker’s mom in her world? I know I sound really nitpicky here, but again, I think the less is more approach worked better with The Further in the last film.

Insidious had some GREAT, surprising jump scares. Chapter 2? Not so much. Wan’s jump scares were more genuinely shocking the first time around, and you couldn’t see most of them coming. One thing that annoys me to no end about mainstream PG-13 horror films is, the jump scares are so easy to telegraph, and unfortunately, Chapter 2 falls into the same trap.

But in a non-related spooky moment that doesn’t involve The Further, Wan did provide a nice chilling moment here. In the flashbacks with Lorraine as a doctor, she strolls into the elevator, and Parker (who’s visibly ill and pale) follows her. Parker doesn’t speak a word to Lorraine, and when Lorraine urges the desk clerk to check on Parker, the desk clerk informs Lorraine Parker committed suicide earlier in the day. The eerie tension with Parker and Lorraine in the elevator was unreal. I had NO idea what would happen in that elevator. Is Lorraine going to panic, scream for help, and run? Or will Parker just attack Lorraine with intentions of killing her? Because Parker tried to strangle a young Josh earlier. Good stuff.

But I’ll say this, I enjoyed the cliffhanger at the end. So Specs and Tucker are investigating a new haunting case, with Elise’s spirit guiding them. Elise approaches this comatose young woman sitting in a chair, and as she’s going through her usual steps to diagnose the problem, she stops all of the sudden. Elise sees something the cameras don’t show us, and whatever Elise saw, it scared the shit out of her. “Oh my God.” Those are Elise’s final words to close out the film, as the credits started rolling.

I’m not happy about the upcoming Insidious part 3 (more on that later), but going by this cliffhanger, it looks like they’re moving the story away from The Lambert family, and putting the focus on some new victims. Of course, it looks like Elise, Specs, and Tucker will stick around as familiar faces. I think it’s way too soon to speculate whether or not moving the story away from The Lamberts will hurt or help the Insidious franchise. But you have to think The Lambert family saga hit the expiration date here, because they really stretched the story as far as it could possibly go, including an in-depth look at Josh’s childhood here. 

Tough rating, because Chapter 2 isn’t good as the original, but it’s not horrible either. And yeah, the cast is a big reason why I won’t go with a negative score here. Is Chapter 2 worse than most horror number twos? No. No it's not, but on the flip side, it’s nothing to brag about either.

By now, I’m sure everyone knows Insidious: Chapter 2 had a strong opening weekend for a low budget horror film, and it’s official now, we’re getting an Insidious 3. Because you know, it made a lot of money, and Hollywood has to milk this franchise for everything it’s worth, right? I threw up in my mouth a little bit, when I read this news, because now, it’s only a matter of time before the Insidious franchise devolves into a mess of shit (i.e. the Saw franchise and Paranormal Activity franchise). Horror franchises don’t get better with more films. Need proof? Just a few modern examples.

Bride Of Chucky
Seed Of Chucky
Halloween: Resurrection
Halloween 2 (2009) (Zombie’s second remake)
Saw 4, 5, 6, & 7
Paranormal Activity 4

Fucking Hollywood.

Rating: 5/10

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