The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Insidious: Chapter 2

What a shame that director James Wan had to follow up a triumph like this summer's The Conjuring with a complete dud like Insidious: Chapter 2. The original Insidious was a solid, old-fashioned chiller that set and sustained an eerie mood. This sequel, in comparison, is a disjointed mess that is never the least bit scary. Is it possible that Wan saved his best ideas for The Conjuring and filled this movie with the less effective ideas? It sure feels that way.

Insidious: Chapter 2 is all fits and starts. There are so many plot threads going on simultaneously that the movie never quite settles into a groove. Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson), who ventured into a weird paranormal netherworld at the end of the first chapter, appears to have brought an evil force back with him. He's suddenly acting atypically hostile. His semi-oblivious wife, Renai (Rose Byrne), tries to figure out why strange things are still happening around her family and why their son, Dalton (Ty Simpkins), continues to have disturbing visions. Meanwhile, the ghost hunters (Leigh Wannell and Angus Sampson) who previously helped the Lamberts fight off a malevolent spirit attempt to make contact with their late boss, Elise (Lin Shaye), to find out why Josh is acting so weird. Her former associate, Carl (Steve Coulter), gives an assist, hoping to reconnect with his old colleague. There are also two demons, both with accompanying explanations of their relevance to the Lambert family. Too many flashbacks reveal a pertinence to Josh's mother (Barbara Hershey). I won't even get into a weird time travel-y subplot.

In an attempt to create a larger mythology around the events of the original, this sequel ties itself into a great big expositional knot. Whereas Insidious was straightforward – family finds out boy is haunted and looks for ways to save him – the sequel weaves all over the map. This sort of meandering robs it of any suspense. In order for a ghost story to work, there has to be a continual mounting of dread. Things must steadily escalate, pulling us along in their wake. With all the flashbacks, jumping between characters/time frames, and scenes designed to tell us in detail what's going on, Chapter 2 ends up fizzling out when it should be paying off. Getting started on the wrong foot doesn't help. Patrick Wilson appears surprisingly little in the early scenes, making it confusing as to what's going on with his character. Eventually we figure it out, but not before enduring some head-scratching moments.

Wan manages to pull off one or two interesting scenes. There's a bit with Dalton's “two tin cans and a string” phone that's creepy, and Carl's use of lettered dice to communicate with the afterworld is a nice addition. Still, it's tough to deny that Insidious: Chapter 2 is nowhere near as effective as its predecessor. The storytelling is sloppy, with so much exposition that any potential scares are completely undermined. The movie violates a fundamental rule of horror filmmaking: if you spend too much time telling the audience why they should be terrified, they won't be.

( 1/2 out of four)

Insidious: Chapter 2 is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of terror and violence, and thematic elements. The running time is 1 hour and 45 minutes.

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