Warning for all readers: this review will contain spoilers from the first film in the series but I’ll try to keep it as ambiguous as possible.
Now, I am an absolute sucker for horror films, even cheap scares that fail to reach any realm of value whatsoever (“Troll 2″ fans, you know what I’m saying), which speaks up for a genre that has been continually parodied and mocked because of its accessible stereotypes and often one-dimensional story lines. Needless to say, you can’t go to a Blockbuster (do they still exist?) or on Netflix without sifting through many deplorable bids before finding an impressive candidate. Fortunately, “Insidious: Chapter 2″ lies outside the seemingly endless pile of garbage that the horror genre has been reduced to. I’m also not going to sit here and pretend “Insidious: Chapter 2″ didn’t have its flaws; along with obscenely predictable dialogue, it lacked character development and relied heavily on the supernatural allure of its predecessor. Nevertheless, the film’s satisfying balance between quick shockers and cerebral discoveries makes it worth the while, especially if you are still invested after watching the first.
It starts immediately after the events concluding the original installment. Josh and Renai Lambert, played by Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne respectively, have successfully retrieved their son, Dalton, from The Furthur-a dark location found during astral projection-are attempting to settle back into their daily lives while Josh is investigated for the murder of Elise, a medium who assisted their search. In classic horror-movie fashion, Renai and Dalton begin to re-experience uncanny instances inside their home: the spotting of specters as well as the physical interacting and communicating-suggesting they didn’t entirely escape their terrifying brush with body invasion. Instead of responding as rationally as one could after his previous venture into unknown and unnatural territory, Josh decides his family is better off forgetting what happened, which causes his mother, Lorraine, to delve into his struggle with apparitions during adolescence. As she digs deeper with the help of a perfectly complimentary, slightly comedic duo, Josh slowly depreciates from loving father to public sketch ball number one. This ices the multi-layered cake, slicing the movie into parallel investigations that focus on the same confounding situation, but takes place in separate planes of existence, both relying on completely distinctive scare tactics.
What really propelled this film into an enjoyable dimension was its ability to answer the questions you really didn’t know existed until it’s chained together, increasing the shock value of the discovery. In doing so, it also achieves in providing viewers with numerous versions of horror; while there are genuinely frightening moments that will make you choke on your Raisinets, you’re also exposed to extremely psychological encounters disturbing enough to question your moral compass (if you, like me, automatically insert yourself into the film). It employs an excellent use of chilling cinematography, creating an environment that is not only familiar for this type of ghastly outlet but also entirely unique to our world because of its attempts to go beyond consciousness. Thankfully, director James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring) sacrificed an exaggerated gore fest for a particularly well done execution of the horror genre. Considering the backlash, most horror sequels garner for their poor pursuit of already tread pathways and the fact that it grossed eight times its budget in its opening weekend, “Insidious: Chapter 2” definitely succeeds in delivering convincing continuity and enough originality to remain fresh in a batch of typically overripe or spoiled attempts.