Star ranking: one out of four
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne
Directed by: James Wan
Running time: 105 minutes
Insidious is defined as proceeding in a gradual, subtle way, but with harmful effects.
There is absolutely nothing intentionally insidious about Insidious: Chapter 2 (except the harmful effect of paying to view this film). This sequel to 2010’s surprisingly potent Insidious comes from a director whose previous projects (The Conjuring, Saw, Dead Silence) were on to something — they embraced and rejuvenated old horror movie clichés.
But in this film Wan appears to be in neutral. Rather than exploit and perfect on the genre’s familiarities, he merely falls into them without any sign of his trademark enthusiasm or personality. The acting sucks, the compositions are standard, the story is absurd and muddled, the musical score that is supposed to heighten apprehension is laughably overbearing, and the only claustrophobia I felt was my obligation to remain seated and endure this 105-minute abysmal debacle.
Alas, the film even opens with two opening credit sequences (at first I thought it was merely a continuation of the previous segment but then I saw “directed by James Wan” twice). How did this manage to slip past the editors? It’s surely the scariest thing to happen in Insidious: Chapter 2.
Wan’s second film in two months (July’s was The Conjuring) picks up exactly where its predecessor, Insidious, left off. The Lamberts, all intact after the ordeal in their old haunted house, move away to Renai’s mother’s ghost-less abode to escape any supernatural activity. If complete liberation from their previous hauntings seems too good to be true, that’s because it is. Predictably, we are told that it wasn’t the house that had a case of the “heebie geebies” but the family themselves.
In an opening scene we see Josh (the father of the Lambert family) as a child, tormented by ghosts. A paranormal investigator is there to help him outgrow his contact with the spirit world. Josh reminded me a lot of Haley Joel Osment’s character in The Sixth Sense— “I see dead people.” The usual bad dreams, feedback-ridden baby monitors and unidentifiable odd noises all ensue despite the family’s relocation. I feel no need to explain more; you already know how this plays out.
Where The Conjuring thrilled me with its meticulous framing, the shots in Insidious: Chapter 2 were beyond predictable — I identified what kind of movie this was and consequently knew exactly when some “creepy” (or hilarious, depending on your perspective) looking person in white make-up would pop out from the darkness. Not even these easily executed moments made me jump.
Even worse, however, is that atmospherically, there is nothing … unless Wan wanted to make his movie a rock concert? In that case the dry ice and elephant that composed the score by jumping on the keys of a piano would make perfect sense. But for the intents of this film these elements do not blend together to conjure up any ghastly aura. Instead it feels like a kindergartner tried to make a mosaic out of magazine clippings while cutting outside of the lines.
If things could possibly get any worse, believe me, they do. The plot is ludicrous and inconsistent with the rules it lays out for itself. When Josh and his child enter the realm of spirits they are able to directly touch things and make noises with objects from the living world. Yet when they try and communicate by using their tongues it doesn’t work. Can someone explain to me why their hands and feet can be heard but not their words?
Maybe Wan needs more than a dictionary; he needs a science lesson, or perhaps simply more conviction.
Joshua Cabrita is a Grade 12 student at Riverside Secondary. He is a founding member of the school's movie club, where students meet to view old classics and discuss their meaning and significance. One of his audacious dreams is to become a full-time professional film critic.
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