It seems that director James Wan's turn behind the lens of this year's low budget horror cum blockbuster The Conjuring wasn't the only horror that he was unleashing upon on audiences in 2013. Re-joining his Saw co-creator Leigh Whannell and putting the Insidious band back together, Wan has more scare in store for the Lamberts.
The Lambert family are stained with a parasitic ghoul that will stop at nothing to leech their life force. Before they can rid this dark force from the living plane, they have to go back to Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine's (Barbara Hershey) past. Elise (Lin Shaye) the lead poltergeist 'cleaner' appears to have met their family before. Flashing back to 1986 we're introduced to a young Josh and his desperate mother Lorraine (Jocelin Donahue) reaching out to Elise (Lindsay Seim). Josh has the gift of reaching out to the spiritual underworld and when younger Elise detects a malignant presence she alters his memory and disrupts his ability. Once the events of Insidious reveal Dalton's (Ty Simpkins) ability (Josh's son) it reawakens it in his father.
Horror sequels bear the heaviest burden. Once the burn victim with finger knives, shark or devil that inhabits a little girl is out of the bag it's impossible to recreate that same level of mystery with thrills and genuine shock. Whannell and Wan want you to know from the outset that there's more about the Lambert clan and more about their spook that you don't know. Whannell and Wan also pose that question that so often goes unanswered in haunting films; what does that 'other-side' or spectral plane sitting alongside the living world look like?
Wan is one of the most formally talented young directors working in Hollywood. Despite the fact that he has been playing in low budget genre films, he has an innate sense of how to position the camera to affect the audiences’ perception. There are no wasted establishment shots here, every moment he wants you to be prepared for what darkness may lurk in each of the locations in the film. Wan is also extremely visually dextrous, putting recording equipment in the hands of the ghost-busters Specs (Whannell) and Tucker (Samson) and integrating their investigative perspective into the film. It's embracing those classical, almost Hammer Horror era production values that don’t grate like bad computer generated effects.
Whanell's screenplay does a good job of expanding the universe but framing the story from the central characters perspective. And he pulls out everything from the haunted horror plot device kit bag; séance dice rolling, creepy coma patients that jump back to life, and creepy mother and son relationships that go bad.
The lead actors, Wilson, Byrne, and Hershey, are decent while all having to adhere to certain clichés as horror protagonists. Anyone possessed must stand around statically and inconspicuously in doorways for example. The highlights are the younger performers Donahue and Lindsay Seim doing their best Hershey and Shaye respectively. Samson is very good as the slowing moving Tucker, who conveys a kind of dim fearlessness and necessary comic relief as a form of stress relief.
INSIDIOUS: Chapter Two has a good cache of scares; a necessary injection of mystery and despite small doses of clunky performances and scripting it’s a rare, high quality horror sequel.
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to the audio review on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: James Wan
Written by: Leigh Whannell (Screenplay/Story) and James Wan (Story)
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Barbara Hershey, Angus Samson, Lin Shaye, Steve Coulter, Leigh Whannell, Jocelin Donahue , Lindsay Seim