Insidious: Chapter 2

Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) has just returned from the other side with his son Dalton (Ty Simpkins).  Paranormal investigator Elise Ranier (Lin Shaye) is sitting in a chair dead, bruised around her neck where she’d been strangled.  Renai Lambert (Rose Byrne) is happy to have her son back from his comatose state but is concerned her husband is a murderer.  While police investigate, the Lamberts move in with Josh’s mother Lorraine (Barbara Hershey).  It isn’t long before strange noises are heard and objects are moved seemingly without anyone around.  Renai sees a woman in white (Danielle Bisutti) roaming around the house.  Lorraine contacts Elise’s assistants Specks and Tucker (Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson) about the strange goings on and they call in an associate of Elise, Carl (Steve Coulter).  He uses dice with letters on them to contact the spirit world.  The four of them try to talk to the spirit of Elise hoping she can help figure out what is still haunting the Lamberts.
 
When “Insidious” came out I was not expecting much and was pleasantly surprised by what an effective and scary movie it was.  Seeing the trailer for “Insidious:  Chapter 2” filled me with excitement over what new kinds of thrills and scares were in store.  Unfortunately, the answer is not nearly enough as this sequel is afflicted with the sophomore slump.
 
“Insidious:  Chapter 2” is a product of the troubled minds of director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell who have also given us the “Saw” franchise, “The Conjuring” and the first “Insidious” among others.  Perhaps the duo needs to take a break as “Insidious:  Chapter 2” feels like it was created by people who are very tired.  I give the film makers an “A” for effort as they have thrown together elements from several genres in the plot.  We get a little bit of a murder mystery, some psychological thriller, a dash of action/adventure, a garnish of domestic drama as well as the haunted house main course.  Sadly, it’s all akin to throwing pasta at a wall and seeing what sticks with the answer being very little.
 
The film has almost no momentum for the first half or so.  Just as the story seems to be taking off it gets dragged back to the starting line by a bunch of false starts.  The jerky nature of the story is explained by the end but by then the damage has been done.  If it had been scarier the story issues would have been forgivable.  While there are some mild “boo” moments most of them are caused more by sudden edits and sounds coming from normal things.  That doesn’t mean the movie doesn’t try real hard to scare you or build up tension.  It actually tries too hard with musical cues, creaking doors and other sounds telegraphing an approaching boogieman (or boogiewoman, depending).  After several of these flashing neon signs of approaching terror fail to actually be terrifying, it becomes easy to ignore the soundtrack as your expectations of a fright ebb away.
 
The film only really becomes tense near the end as the battle is being fought on two fronts:  One in the real world and the other in the land between the death and the afterlife known as the Further.  We also get explanations about events earlier in the film.  Footage from the first movie is incorporated in an imaginative way as a means of building on the story.  Unfortunately, the good parts near the end don’t come close to making up for all the bad that’s come before.
 
“Insidious:  Chapter 2” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of terror and violence, and thematic elements.  There are a few fights as well as a rather intense sequence near the end as the story wraps up.  There is no gore.  Thematic elements involve child abuse and gender identity.
 
I really wanted “Insidious:  Chapter 2” to be as much of a shock to the system as “Insidious” was.  Instead we get a watered down version of a superior original that smacks of being a money grab.  The first film was made for about $1.5-million and grossed nearly $100-million worldwide.  The sequel was made for $5-million and will probably make less but will still be obscenely profitable, meaning we’re likely to see a third chapter and, knowing how these things go, we’ll have a different writer and director giving us an even more watered down, fright-less flick.  I begrudge no one making as much money as they can; but don’t expect me to keep shelling out my hard-earned dollar for inferior knock-offs.
 
“Insidious:  Chapter 2” gets two guitars out of five.
 
We’re getting closer to the time of year when the top awards contenders are released.  Is there one in this week’s bunch?  Vote for the next movie I see and review.
 
Afternoon Delight—A bored housewife looking to spice up her marriage visits a strip club and becomes obsessed with rescuing a dancer named McKenna.  She hires the young woman as her live-in nanny, opening her life to unexpected waves of change.
 
Austenland—Socially awkward Jane Hayes (Keri Russell) is obsessed with the works of Jane Austen and fantasizes about the character of Mr. Darcy.  She scrapes together as much money as she can and takes off for Austenland, a British theme resort where guests immerse themselves in a romantic fantasy worthy of Austen herself.
 
Battle of the Year—A gang of misfit Hip Hop dancers are brought together with a down-on-his-luck basketball coach to try and bring the world championship dance title back to the US for the first time in 15 years.
 
Prisoners—How far would you go to protect your child? Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) is facing every parent's worst nightmare. His six-year-old daughter, Anna, is missing, together with her young friend, Joy, and as minutes turn to hours, panic sets in.
 
Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film of his choice currently in theatres or On Demand.
 
Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.
 
Questions or comments are welcome at stanthemovieman@att.net.  Follow Stan on Twitter @moviemanstan.