INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 2 is another pretty good ghost movie from director James Wan (DEATH SENTENCE, FURIOUS SEVEN) and his longtime co-writer Leigh Whannell. It’s actually a better sequel than usual because either they set up on purpose what part 2 would be or they just happened to leave a good hook for it on accident. Chapter 1 was kind of a POLTERGEIST meets JAWS THE REVENGE deal where this family thinks their house is haunted by a demonic Tiny-Tim-loving Darth Maul cosplayer, but it turns out their son (Ty Simpkins, IRON MAN THREE) is haunted. The dad (Patrick Wilson, THE A-TEAM), has to go to The Other Side or Tiptoe Through the Tulips Land or whatever to straighten things out with these fuckin ghosts. But also we met his mother (Barbara Hershey, BOXCAR BERTHA), and there was some indication that something like this had already happened to him before when he was a kid.
Well, now it all ties together. We flash back to his childhood (Isn’t chapter 2 kinda soon for that? I think this is gonna be a pretty short book. Will this even be a novella?) and then we see how it connects to some spookiness going on with the family right now, particularly with dad acting weird, being seen doing odd things when he thinks he’s alone, and covering his growing agitation with an increasingly awkward fake smile. Did he come back from ghost world somehow… wrong?
The first one dealt with the fear of spooky kids, this is one is all about the fear of insane dads and husbands. And the idea of someone you know really well suddenly seeming different, not themselves.
One thing I dug in chapter 1 was seeing Lin Shaye, a character actress known mostly for bit parts in New Line Cinema movies and as the nasty landlord in KINGPIN (“What is it about good sex that makes me have to crap? You really jarred something loose, Tiger!”), get to play the cool ghost expert. She returns, but the movie messes with us. First we just hear her voice dubbed over a younger actress playing her in the past. Then she’s a dead body, strangled to death in the family’s living room (dad swears he didn’t do it though). Alot of the movie deals with the wife (Rose Byrne, KNOWING) and her struggle between trusting her husband and the fact that he’s acting fucking weird.
Eventually they find a way to put Shaye back in the movie and she takes the time to hug everybody and say reassuring things, which shows why the character is so lovable (though it’s another thing similar to POLTERGEIST – the ghost expert lady hugs the protagonist in that too).
I’m not big on the ghost movies, and at first this seems like just a bunch more cliche ghosty shit. You got lots of noisy baby toys that suddenly turn on and make everybody shit their pants. Oh my god it’s a ghost oh no it’s just an electronic toy it’s a false alarm everybody… or is it? You got creepy sounds on the baby monitor. You got brief images of a creepy old lady with pancake makeup. You got a little girl with pigtails and a pretty old fashioned dress and a dollhouse with her back turned whispering ominous warnings. All that shit.
But I was happy that as it revealed what was going on, as convoluted as it is, it fits together. It has a logic to it. One problem I have with ghost movies is that they can just be an excuse to string together unexplained creepy shit. That almost always runs out of steam by the end because you start to notice the pattern and the lack of consequences to anything that happens.
This is the rare ghost movie that gains the steam at the end. Some of those cliches I mentioned get twisted around and you find out it’s actually something different than it looked like. And it does something I haven’t seen before in a ghost movie involving a (SPOILER I BELIEVE) time loop. Instead of random weird ghost shit you realize it’s all pretty carefully planned, the later scenes explain and connect to the earlier scenes, we find out who these ghosts are, plus how they tie in to the dad and the childhood incident referenced in the first movie, plus the mystery of what’s wrong with him now, and they figure out how to deal with it. There is some elbow grease put into this movie at least. Not bad in my opinion.
“INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 2 is fastidious about what it’s trying to do!” –Vern
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.