Insidious: Chapter 2 is a fun, well-built horror machine.
As a person not inclined to view horror films with any frequency, I've been amazed by the genre's recent renaissance. What was a boring gore-fest of blood and severed body parts has been replaced with a growing list of quality character-driven films surrounded by excellent actors. Insidious: Chapter 2 is another example of this rebirth, a seat-clenching and highly enjoyable sequel to Director James Wan's low-budget smash hit from 2011.
Having survived the events of the first film, Renai (Rose Byrne) and Josh (Patrick Wilson) have moved in with Josh's mother Lorainne (Barbara Hershey), hoping their family can make a fresh start. Unfortunately, the first rule of possession movies soon becomes abundantly clear: the spirit haunts the person, not the home. As murder follows the family, we learn that the Josh is still the target, who is now inhabited by a demon responsible for the murder of countless women years ago. The clairvoyant father is stuck in a kind of purgatory, while the Earth-bound Josh soon starts terrorizing Renai and their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins). As Renai and Lorainne search for answers, they are joined by old ghosthunter friends who will need every ounce of their experience to tackle this dangerous enemy.
Co-writer/Director Wan weaves a white-knuckled affair, but never needs to employ the generic tools of terror in gore and blood baths. Instead, he drops bits of well-placed humor to lighten the mood while telling a story filled with twists and plenty of ghoulish moments to terrify the audience. Chapter 2 is just a good ghost story that never needs to dive into a remake of The Shining, with Wilson doing his best Jack Torrance. At first glance, the ingredients seem all-too familiar: mix a psychotic mother only Norman Bates could love, stir in a mass-murdering son, and add a dash of odd-time travel for color. But where most flicks would suffer from this obvious sort of pandering, Wan turns it into something fresh and unexpected. Wilson and Byrne are two exceptional actors in their own rights, so adding their talents here merely legitimizes the whole affair. The gorgeous Byrne can also act, while Wilson has become the go-to guy for the intelligent father who's either been tracking ghosts (the equally good The Conjuring), or who's become the hunted. Our supporting cast, including returning 'heroes' Specks (Co-Writer Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) bumble their way effortless through scenes while the serious investigator Carl (Steve Coulter) warns them, "Don't break the circle!" Seeing Hershey assume a more robust role is also welcomed as the grandmother who's got her own burden to bear that comes through in a solid second act.
If this new wave of intelligent horror films is the new trend, count me in. Insidious: Chapter 2 sacrifices none of the fright, elevating itself above the din of lesser slasher flicks with terrific casting and a solid re-inventing of old cliches. Add this to your theater To-Do list and amaze your friends as sit confidently through this early Fall entry. Insidious: Chapter 2 is rated a surprising PG-13 for intense sequences of terror and violence, and thematic elements and has a runtime of 105 minutes.
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