Tuesday, September 17, 2013

In Theaters: INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 (2013)

(US/UK - 2013)

Directed by James Wan.  Written by Leigh Whannell.  Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, Lin Shaye, Steve Coulter, Ty Simpkins, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Jocelin Donahue, Andrew Astor, Michael Beach, Tom Fitzpatrick, Danielle Bisutti. (PG-13, 105 mins)

Two months after the very effective, old-school fright flick THE CONJURING, director James Wan (SAW) has a sequel to his 2011 hit INSIDIOUS in theaters.  INSIDIOUS was 2/3 of a terrific horror film that collapsed in the last third, and this follow-up is dead in the water from the start.  Everything Wan did right in INSIDIOUS and THE CONJURING goes wrong here as he and screenwriter/co-star Leigh Whannell really stretch to expand a story that ran out of gas before the first film was even finished.  Weaving a complicated backstory into the first film--and pulling a page from the SAW sequels' playbook as some events here take place at the same time as the first INSIDIOUS--while relying on the same scares that were once fresh but now seem played out (look around the periphery of several scenes and you expect to find a ghostly figure lurking somewhere), everything about CHAPTER 2 feels repetitive, uninspired, and at times, downright desperate.

Picking up right where the first film left off, medium Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) is dead, with Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson, also in THE CONJURING) under suspicion after venturing into the purgatorial ghost world known as The Further to rescue his son Dalton (Ty Simpkins), who was abducted by spirits that have followed Josh since he was a child.  Moving in with Josh's mother Lorraine (Barbara Hershey), Josh and wife Renai (Rose Byrne) soon find themselves under siege once more by malevolent spirits.  This time, Josh really doesn't seem like Josh, and it doesn't take long for Renai to realize that another spirit is lurking inside him.  Enter Specs (Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), Elise's wacky ghostbusting sidekicks, who team up with Carl (Steve Coulter), an old associate of Elise's, and figure out that Josh is possessed by the ghost of Parker Crane (Tom Fitzpatrick), who was a serial killer known as the Bride in Black, driven to kill by the memories of childhood abuse at the hands of his wicked mother (Danielle Bisutti).

"Shh!  Don't tell anyone

The confusing storyline doesn't make much sense, especially when Josh, trapped in The Further by Crane's spirit, starts interacting with himself and Renai in events from the first film.  He also travels back to 1986 to converse with himself as a child.  These "Further" rules and abilities seem arbitrary and made up as they go along, and do nothing to enhance the experience of the first film, which, while not following through all the way to the end, still functioned nicely on its own.   No, everything here seems like a cash-in.  Most sequels are unnecessary anyway, but this one feels especially so and is doubly disappointing considering how good THE CONJURING was.  Unlike its predecessor, INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 is boring and illogical, the jump-scares no longer work, and the "possessed by a serial killer" angle feels stale and seems to exist only to give Wilson a chance to act like Jack Nicholson in THE SHINING.  It's a huge step back for Wan, who really impressed with THE CONJURING, and of course, the door is left open for a third INSIDIOUS, which has already been announced.  I think I've seen enough.

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