Something strange takes place when watching James Wan’s Insidious: Chapter 2. There is obviously a sense of expectation for the big scares and to know how this one will measure up to the well-received predecessor; however, bizarrely, there are a lot of comedic elements in the plot. It is evident that people don’t buy a ticket to a horror film with the intention to have a good laugh but with Wan’s latest, audiences might have to be prepared to experience something of an in-between-ner. It is neither a completely functional and truly scary film nor conceived to be a full on comedy, it is sort of like those spirits it revolves around, one of those that couldn’t find their place neither in death nor life, but they are still essentially dead.
The demonic ordeal begins with a flashback to how it all started — something that many horror sequels tend to do but for which they can’t be judged since they are not trying to redefine the genre—in the family’s old house when young Josh (played as an adult by Patrick Wilson) was having some ghost adventures of his own. Back in the present day, the story begins right where it left off last time, Elise Ranier (Lin Shaye) is dead allegedly killed by possessed Josh, who now claims everything is fine. Surprise, it is not, the strange noises and creepy apparitions continue just as Josh starts acting more and more erratically. Renai (Rose Byrne) is clearly affected by entities messing with her piano and trying to steal her baby, but tries to stay calm until the very physical spirit of a woman from an earlier time slaps her across the face and knocks her out. Seriously.
Concerned grandmother Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) decides to bring in the big guns, and recruits Carl, Elise ex-partner, and her quirky assistants Specs (Leigh Whannell, who also wrote the screenplay,) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), more on them in a second. The group invokes Elise’s spirit to get some answers, which leads them to a hospital, a sexually confused individual, tons of murders, and a dead woman with funny over-the-top make-up. In order not to ruin any amusement or shock value people may get out of the film, it is better to say that what unfolds in the third act is an underworld-time-travel expedition in order to save a certain possessed character from an evil murderous “lady”.
Now, for the entertaining but tonally atrocious part of the film, the two previously mentioned characters, Specs and Tucker are for all intents and purposes Insidious’ version of the Despicable Me minions. They are dumb, funny, and clumsy and, sadly, steal every scene they are in by adding the “what the hell is going on here” factor to the film. Based on pure speculation, this tonal inconsistencies and the effort to make this “edgy” by making the comedic duo prominent in the story might not be director Wan’s fault, but the fact Whannell, wrote the screenplay himself. Even when the horror works, and it does at several points in the film, the hilarity that ensues breaks the spell and undermines the fear factor of the entire piece.
Patrick Wilson and Rose Bryn are actually extremely good in here, if it wasn’t for the baffling amount of side jokes, their amazing performances would have added to the disturbing occurrences, which are actually scary when left alone to play out. Their work and that of Wan falls short because of a story that never knows what it should be and throws away the great build up it had from the original.
Final Verdict: There was potential here, and it is a bit disappointing after the amazing response James Wan earned recently with The Conjuring. Even if there are some sequences that work and provide some thrills, the film is not cohesive even within its own context nether the storyline or the tone. Great performances are not used to their fullest potential because of an underlining witty mood that never seems to fit in. Entertaining but sometimes for all the wrong reasons, Insidious: Chapter 2 might cause anyone insomnia but will surely make for a strange fun time at the movies. Whether that makes it successful or not only the box-office will tell.