Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey
Directed by: James Wan (“Insidious”)
Written by: Leigh Whannell (“Insidious”)
With two horror films hitting theaters over the last two months, it seems director James Wan (“Saw”) has spread himself a bit thin. While his creepy 2010 chiller “Insidious” felt like an example of a well-executed throwback in the same vein as Sam Rami’s “Drag Me to Hell” the year prior, “Insidious: Chapter 2” is a prime example of what happens when a horror movie sequel goes bad. Without the tension or overall disturbing nature of the original, “Chapter 2” should close the book on Wan’s journey into the paranormal.
“Chapter 2” comes right off the heels of the first movie where Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) has escaped the spiritual world known as The Further and saved his son from the clutches of a Darth Maul-looking demon. In doing so, he becomes possessed himself and kills the supernatural medium, Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye), who helped him tap into his ability to surf through parallel worlds. Now, the Lambert family, including wife Renai (Rose Byrne) and their two boys, move to Renai’s mother’s (Barbara Hershey) house for safety. But as Elise so pointedly says in the original, “It’s not the house that is haunted. It’s your son,” the Lamberts should already know their change in address isn’t going to stop the evil parasites that have already taken over Josh’s body.
Turning into a kind of poor-man’s version of “The Shining,” “The Amityville Horror,” or “Mommy Dearest,” “Chapter 2” falls back into a generic narrative and ignores the effectively sinister tone its predecessor flourished on. Instead, Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell place the Lambert family in an old, abandoned hospital and flash images of ghoulish women dressed in 19th century garb on the screen in a lame attempt to incite cheap scares like most American horror movies do these days. Basically, in “Chapter 2,” Wan takes the weakest moments of the first movie (the woeful last half hour when Wan tries to impersonate Rob Zombie) and extends them into 105 minutes of Halloween costume playtime. If you’ve seen one malevolent ghost lady with dark mascara screaming like a banshee, you’ve seen them all.
Still, credit deservedly goes to original composer Joseph Bishara, who found his way back to Wan for both “Chapter 2” and “The Conjuring” this past summer. There’s something incredibly unsettling about the warped sound Bishara has been able to create for the “Insidious” franchise. If anything keeps you up at night – if you start straining your eyes to see what is lurking in the corners of your bedroom – just hope Bishara’s composition of shrieking violins doesn’t enter your consciousness at that exact moment. In “Chapter 2,” what Bishara does with his music is really the most frightening thing you’ll experience.