Using common sense, people who believe in ghosts and haunted houses should probably just downsize. If the movies are any indication, they all seem to live in these posh semi-mansions either in suburban enclaves or in the middle of nowhere, giving these phantom terrorists plenty of opportunities to slam doors, creak floors and blow on curtains.
An average movie family that fits in that category is the one in Insidious: Chapter 2, comprising a young husband and wife and two young children, who live in a large house with a checkered history, which must either be in the world’s best school district or feature unbelievably an unbelievably low interest rate on the mortgage.
Regardless, it feels more like the setting for a horror movie than an actual house. Which it is, complete with creepy basements and passageways, shelves stocked with antique relics and knickknacks, and strange noises at night.
This follow-up to the low-budget 2011 horror film comes off more as a retread than a sequel, again following the Lambert family as they realize the demons that possessed their youngest son have not vanished as originally thought. So Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai (Rose Byrne) call in a variety of paranormal experts in an attempt to track the origin of the nightmarish happenings. The investigation explores Josh’s troubled childhood and his connection to a mentally unstable man from his past, along with untold secrets from his mother (Barbara Hershey).
The return of director James Wan (The Conjuring) from the original film ensures that most of the modest frights will be visually compelling. Indeed, the film makes the most of its familiar setting with a handful of effective frights.
Yet the screenplay by Wan’s frequent collaborator, Leigh Whannell, is less inspired than the first installment. It relies on cheap thrills and fails to generate consistent suspense, while lacking the sharp sense of humor that kept the first film from bogging down.
Plus, once again it ends with a protracted mix of fantasy and reality involving the dreamlike realm known as The Further, that’s more incoherent than scary.
More than anything, Insidious: Chapter 2 is the sort of unnecessary, tossed-off idea that is motivated more by financial gain than creativity. Then comes an ending that leaves the door open for a third effort, you know, if the money dictates.
Rated PG-13, 105 minutes.