Insidious: Chapter 2 is an American Horror sequel with both Leigh Whannell and James Wan returning as writer and director respectively. It’s my strong opinion that this a good addition to the story as it focus on the cliffhanger ending of the first film. This film is better than the original for a number of reasons, namely the addition of Steve Coulters character Carl.
(SPOILER if you still haven’t seen the Insidious, I suggest you stop reading.) Insidious: Chapter 2 opens with a flashback scene to 1986 to when Josh was trouble be the ghost of the old woman. Lorraine has obtained the aid of a medium Carl, who asks the aid of friend Elise to save Josh as a child. After Elise is attacked by a ghost in a closet, she and Carl use hypnosis to make Josh forget his abilities. Now we jump ahead to just after the first film and its aftermath. Elise is dead and Josh being suspected of the murder. The Lamberts move into Lorraines home when the haunting starts to resume. In need of aid, but without Elise, Lorraine reaches out to Carl for him to contact Elise with his word dice. Lorraine, Carl, Specs and Tucker follow a series of clues from the dice to Our Lady of Angels hospital then to an old decrepit home. We learn of Parker Crane, one of Lorraines patients while she worked at the hospital 25 years ago and who lived in the home. We learn that he is the woman in black and was a serial killer back when he was alive. We also learn while in the home that it’s not Elise that has been aiding them through the dice but Parkers mother. While this is happening, Josh who has been possessed by Parkers spirit is starting to age rapidly due a dead spirit living within the living flesh. Lorraine and the other rush back to try save Joshs family before Parker Crane can kill them. Things don’t go well for our would be heroes as Crane gets the upper hand. Carl after being attacked awakens in the Further to be greeted by Joshs spirit. The two set out to find Elise and ask for her aid. After finding her, she helps to guide them the place where Cranes memories and the spirit of his mother live for a final battle to save Josh.
So some of the things that work very well this time around was simply that all the characters know of what was happening. The main thing that annoys me about most ghost/possession films is that two-thirds of the film are often one character trying to convince others that ghosts/haunting are real. But since that groundwork was laid in the last film the pace in Insidious: Chapter 2 picks up much faster and spends more time developing the story of the ghost of Parker Crane.
Another aspect I enjoy is the addition of the character Carl. While exceedingly undeveloped as a character I still found very relatable and incredibly likable. I also enjoyed the use of dice as his medium through which he contacted the spirit world. It felt like interesting approach the very cliche role of the spirit medium. He came across as caring, but worn down, which adds to his likability. We never learn much of Carls past or him as an individual, but he as a replacement of Elises character Carl does an outstanding job.
The returning cast as a whole did as just well if not better than they did in the previous film. With special mentions going to Patrick Wilson, Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson. Whannell and Sampson while again minor characters were once again a delight to watch and would be the chief reason for me to revisit this film. I’m interested in seeing the Chapter 3 which is slated for 2015 as it won’t be focusing on Lamberts and the returning characters will be Specs, Tucker and Elise.
But with the good invariably comes the bad. The story of Parker Crane is incredibly generic, as it feels dated, borrowing too much from older and better films such as Psycho. I’ve grown very tired of the gender confused mothers boy killer archetype that always seems to crop up and that’s even when they are done well. The twist that the woman in black that’s been haunting Josh since was a boy was in fact a man the whole time seemed very weak and could have been handled better. The torment Parker Crane suffered does nothing to cast him in a sympathetic light for me, if anything makes me feel less for the character.
Another gripe I have which is oddly my biggest one was that the corpses of Cranes victims were incredibly well-preserved for having been left out for TWENTY FIVE plus years. Also the sheer number of bodies would have created such a stench that their discovery should have happened far sooner. Embalmed or not, insects and rodents would have eaten away the corpses of his victims so finding them in a near perfect state was a real stretch from my suspension of disbelief. While an interesting idea the house would have need to be far more secluded as empty homes like that would have be vandalized by either teenagers, drug addicts or the homeless before the events of Insidious films.
But a very close second is how the ghost of Parker Crane’s mother is defeated. So once again SPOILER, how do you kill a ghost with a ghost rocking horse? She’s already dead and in the spirit world for that matter, so the idea that the ghost can bludgeoned to death is very aggravating. Couldn’t she have been forced to move on to whatever place lies beyond the Further or some physical thing that here essence is tied to be destroyed instead? Elise claimed she came from a place beyond the Further and it was a good place. So conversely, would there could easily be a bad place, so she could have been forced there maybe? Nope just beat the ghost to death with a rocking horse, problem solved.
Now final thoughts and that’s that, I liked it. For its notable few drawbacks and cliches I feel that this is a great addition to and conclusion to the Lamberts story. The acting, writing and pacing are better than the first time around so I can’t see any real faults beyond those mentioned, well almost. The ending does leave a bit sore for reasons mentioned in my review of Insidious but since this is an addition to that story I came in accepting that issue would be still be there. But overall it was very well done, Insidious: Chapter 2 gets an improved score of 7/1o. Also the Panasonic being worn down on the VCR to read panic was a nice touch.