Compelled to capitalise on the success of what many labelled the best supernatural thriller in decades, director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell reunite for its sequel, Insidious: Chapter 2. Picking up directly after the events depicted in the first film, Insidious: Chapter 2 frustratingly succumbs to many of the same problems – a convoluted narrative and an overt reliance on quick shocks rather than deep-rooted terror – that caused the first film to lose merit during its latter half.
In a bid to escape the constant reminders of the nightmarish events that tormented them and their three children, Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai Lambert (Rose Byrne) move in with Josh’s mother, Lorraine (Barbara Hershey). But when the unnatural occurrences follow them to their new residence, the Lambert’s quickly realise that the issues might run deeper and further into the past than they originally thought and must fight for their lives.
Embedded deeply within the fabric of its predecessor, Insidious: Chapter 2 leaps between the past and present, real world and “the Further”, as the Lambert’s attempt to unravel the mysteries behind the supernatural entities that continue to torment them. It’s a trick that, despite offering up one or two surprising revelations and neat twists along the way (those of which I won’t spoil here), not only complicates the narrative further, but also impedes the audiences care.
At times, the script attempts to undercut the seriousness and labyrinthe nature of the narrative with moments of dark humour and buffoonery, mostly of which stem from the involvement of supernatural pursuers Specs (played by Whannell himself and Tucker (Angus Sampson). And, while this works to an extent, it’s not nearly as successful as Whannell and Wan like to think it is. The twists, turns and scares, too, are far too been-there-done-that, and only provide momentary distress, if that.
It’s also a film that lacks in any kind of believability. Innumerable questions are raised, most of which relate to why Renai – or any of the characters for that matter – would stay anywhere near Josh if she felt at all threatened by his presence, but none are answered realistically, only in a way that allows the narrative to achieve its designated purpose, rational or not. This too stretches to the performances, which are utterly one-note and, in the interest of Wilson’s turn as Josh, completely absurd.
In spite of some mildly canny components, this is a sequel that never argues its worth in a convincing or commendable manner. Where Insidious had a solid first half before taking a turn for the worse, Insidious: Chapter 2 is messy, detached and unrealistic right the way through. A third instalment is alluded to at the very end, but Whannell and Wan would be wise to step away from this franchise before it wears even thinner – if that’s even possible.