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Insidious: Chapter 2

September 13, 2013
Insidious: Chapter 2

Insidious: Chapter 2 is less a sequel to the original Insidious than a completion. The second part integrates tightly with the first, and after seeing it I can’t say that either movie can stand completely on its own without the other. In particular, Chapter 2 doesn’t spend much time reviewing the setup or events of Insidious, and so I would strongly suggest viewing — even re-viewing — the first part before taking on the second. Or, indeed, in reading further. The executive summary for those who want to avoid spoilers: I enjoyed Chapter 2 as much as I enjoyed Insidious, and together they form one of my favorite horror stories of recent years.

The warnings aside, we pick up with the Lamberts pretty much where we left off at the end of the first movie: Josh (Patrick Wilson) has successfully retrieved his son, Dalton (Ty Simpkins), from the astral void, but the medium, Elise (Lin Shaye), is dead. As the police investigate their house, the family moves in with Josh’s mother, Lorraine (Barbara Hershey).

But of course all is not well; Renai (Rose Byrne) still sees and hears strange things going bump in the night. And Josh doesn’t look so great either; his skin turns sickly and grey; his teeth grow loose. It seems that he hasn’t come back alone from the other side, if he has come back at all. And yes, this serves to fill in one of the threads that seemed to be raised and left hanging in the first part.

Elise wasn’t just an acquaintance of Lorraine’s; Josh himself had been troubled by the supernatural in his youth, and Elise was the one who’d placed the hypnotic block that allowed him to grow up more or less well-adjusted. But the trip to save Dalton has opened up that can of worms again. Lorraine seeks the help of Elise’s assistants (Angus Sampson and series writer Leigh Whannell) and one of Elise’s former colleagues, Carl (Steve Coulter), who’d helped with Josh’s troubles the last time around.

Where Insidious felt like a haunted house movie in the Poltergeist vein, Chapter 2 pivots to more of a supernatural take on a domestic thriller. There are clear allusions to both Psycho and The Shining, among others.

The danger with adopting such a throwback style in the age of torture-porn — a danger the first part shared — is that it can easily feel hokey if the audience doesn’t consciously allow itself to adopt the head-space of the story. In a way, these movies are like the horror equivalents of old 1950s melodramas; if you aren’t willing to take the story on its own terms, it’s going to come off silly. I loved the way the story turned back on and recontextualized the first movie, but I can also see someone finding it forced, confusing, or even laughable.

But if you’re willing to go along with it, Insidious: Chapter 2 makes a great counterpoint to the first movie. Anyone who has enjoyed the style that director James Wan and producer Jason Blum have been developing over the last couple years will love this one too.

Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: fail.

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