Movie Review: “Insidious: Chapter 2″

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  • Release Date: 9/13/2013
  • Running Time: 105 minutes
  • Written By: Leigh Whannell, James Wan
  • Directed By: James Wan
  • Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Ty Simpkins, Steve Coulter, Angus Sampson, Jocelin Donahue, Danielle Bisutti

Movie Review: “Insidious: Chapter 2″

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Ever since SAW, James Wan has consistently terrorized moviegoers with weird, sadistic, creative, and startling horror (DEAD SILENCE, THE CONJURING, and the first INSIDIOUS). The director, along with Blumhouse Productions (PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, SINISTER, THE PURGE), return for a second go around with the Lambert family and, like the original, it’s a doozy.

The first INSIDIOUS made a story about a haunted house and possession seem unique and thrilling again, thanks to wacky notions like astral projections and fantastical creations like “The Further,” a terrifying alternate dimension between heaven and hell (but a lot closer to Hell, I’d suspect) full of spirits hungry for life. There were many frightening images and ghosts in the film, but none more indelible than the Lipstick Face Demon.

I watched INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 as a part of a double feature put on by the folks at AMC, and it was a terrific way to see the two films, highlighting the wonderful cohesion between the pair. The second film is bigger, delving into the back story of the ghosts and demons that haunted and possessed the Lambert family in the first film. In so doing, it actually makes the first film stronger, tying things together and unraveling parallels and twists that feel as natural as if they were completely planned in the first place. I don’t buy that Whannell and Wan had some LOST-style map planned out for the series, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they did, considering the results.

We open in 1986, with a younger Elise Rainier arriving at Lorraine’s creepy house (every house these people live in should have served as warnings before they moved in) to help a younger, haunted Josh. She puts him in hypnosis and makes him forget how to astral project, how to get into “the Further,” but not before a creepy nugget launches the story forward to present day. What has arrived in the Lambert home has been haunting Josh and his family since 1986.

I’m writing this review as if you have seen INSIDIOUS, because it’s kind of impossible to talk about the sequel without delving into the ending of the first one, when Josh (WATCHMEN’s Patrick Wilson) journeyed into The Further to retrieve his son Dalton (IRON MAN 3′s Ty Simpkins, who somehow still looks 6). He succeeded in bringing Dalton back to his body before the Lipstick Face Demon could steal it, but Josh wasn’t so lucky: the freaky black veiled old woman managed to sneak into Josh, killing the wonderfully helpful Elise (CRITTERS’ Lin Shaye) upon arrival.

Somehow, Renai (X-MEN: FIRST CLASS’ Rose Byrne) and Lorraine (BLACK SWAN’s Barbara Hershey) don’t want to believe the evil that has entered their house, even after the events of the first film. Renai literally sees a picture of the veiled woman, knowing full well that this was the parasite that was after Josh’s body, but denial is a powerful thing. Thankfully, neither Renai nor Lorraine spend very much time before being convinced that this awful $#*! isn’t over.

INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 is chalk full of scares and pulse-pounding tension. Like the first one, you know full well what’s around the corner, or that something awful is going to appear on screen, under the bed, in the closet, behind the door, at the piano, but it simply doesn’t matter. The film is shot in such a way that it still delivers chills; I literally had goosebumps throughout. I would argue that this film’s central antagonists, the pale evil “Mother of Death,” (Danielle Bisutti) and the black veiled woman are far creepier than the Lipstick Face Demon. The Demon was cool and supernatural and powerful, but the two spirits that attack the Lambert’s this time around are far closer to reality, and freakier for it.

INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 has many horror tropes, but thanks to the story’s idiosyncrasies, and the idiosyncratic characters — fan favorites Specs (screenwriter Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) never fail to cut the tension — everything works. CHAPTER 2 is even more over the top and heavy handed, featuring cliche lines like “We’ve been married for 12 years, and for the first time, when I looked into his eyes, I didn’t recognize him,” but it’s also balls-out horror, with some horrifying scenes in The Further and around the house. All-in-all, this is an exemplary installment in what appears to be one of the most promising horror franchises of the new millennium. Yes, there will be another. As long as Whannell and Wan are attached, that’s a good thing.

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