Like “Poltergeist,” “Insidious: Chapter 2” is a haunted house chiller that makes generous use of a couple goofy paranormal investigators (Leigh Wannell and Angus Sampson) who come to the aid of an average American family (led by Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, neither of whom are very good at acting scared) when closet doors start opening on their own and their baby walker shuffles across the room by itself.
Like “The Shining,” it hinges on a climax in which Wilson terrorizes his family (albeit with a baseball bat, not an ax, and albeit possessed by some sort of demon) as they scream for their lives. Also like “The Shining,” “Chapter 2” builds slowly, almost inviting you to drop your guard before the movie’s true moments of terror come to light.
Unfortunately, unlike “Poltergeist” or “The Shining,” “Insidious: Chapter 2” is hindered by a third act set almost entirely in an otherworldly parallel dimension, which has the same look and feel as those foggy dream sequences you often encounter watching daytime soap operas.
Up until that point, “Chapter 2” is an often effective, occasionally creepy continuation of the 2011 original, featuring the same cast (Barbara Hershey, Ty Simpkins and Lin Shaye also return) and director (James Wan, who had an even bigger hit than “Insidious” this past summer with “The Conjuring”). Much like “The Conjuring,” “Chapter 2” also makes extraordinary use of its creepy musical score and of its shadowy set pieces, including one sequence set in that old horror movie standby: the old, abandoned mental institution.
But “Chapter 2” pales in comparison to “The Conjuring” because it’s ghost story elements are often more silly than scary and because the movie is more or less a retread of the original “Insidious,” only this time they’ve replaced that dopey ShopVac suit Shaye wore to infiltrate the other side with a slightly less dopey shaker of oogey-boogey Boggle dice.
Considering it picks up almost immediately after the events of the first “Insidious,” it’s unlikely “Chapter 2” will make much of a splash as a stand-alone picture, which is a shame, because the elements were in place for a satisfying chiller. If satisfaction is what you’re after, you’d probably be better off renting one of the movies “Insidious: Chapter 2” is out to emulate.
★★ out of ★★★★
Rated PG-13. 105 minutes. 2013.
Director: James Wan. Starring: Rose Byrne, Patrick Wilson.