Why does Hollywood keep turning out horror movie sequels? I can understand the reasoning behind the first film, but when you bleed a franchise beyond the point of being taken seriously, you’ve defiled the memory of what might have been a decent movie for a little profit . . . actually, I think I just answered my own question.
Anyway, today we’re looking at yet another sequel to a horror film: Insidious: Chapter 2. In the first movie, one of the Lambert boys was possessed by ghosts and a demon that everyone likes to compare to Darth Maul. His father went into some kind of ghost world to save him, and now the kid is back to normal. Unfortunately, something came back with them. Is it a scare fest worth freaking out over or a sellout in need of an exorcist? Well, let’s take a look at the trailer and find out.
So who stars in this movie? The main characters are back from the first movie. Rose Byrne returns as the mother, Renai Lambert; her other films include X-Men First Class, 28 Days Later, and Knowing. Josh, the father, is played by Patrick Wilson, who has also been in Watchmen, Phantom of the Opera, and The Conjuring. And the grandmother, Lorraine, is portrayed by Barbara Hershey; her resume includes films like Black Swan and Falling Down, as well as a villainous role in the TV series Once Upon a Time.
The director is James Wan, also coming back for a second shot at the Insidious franchise. He is responsible for such films as Saw, Dead Silence, and The Conjuring. So clearly he is no stranger to the horror genre. This is his first sequel, though, so it remains to be seen how well he follows up on his own work.
The trailer opens with Josh tackling his son as he plays with one of those tin can string phones. I guess somebody was tired of the kid running up the phone bill. We learn that, two years after the events of the first film, the family has moved in with Grandma Lorraine. This move puzzles me; why did they wait so long after the haunting to leave their old house? In fact, why did they need to leave at all, other than to avoid bad memories? Now, I could just be misunderstanding all this business about moving, but there’s one more detail that bothers me. I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t seen the first Insidious, but after the ending of that film, someone should have ended up in prison. But no, everyone’s together and happy.
Or so it seems.
A baby toy rolls into the hallway by itself, and Renai goes to check it out. She walks across the room and sees nothing. She walks back, and a woman in white is suddenly sitting on the couch. Looks like someone’s been using Teleport plasmids again. The ghost woman goes upstairs and sings “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” to Renai’s baby girl, which is actually really sweet. Locking the girl’s mother out of the nursery? Not so much.
Renai tells Josh about the returning ghosts, and they hold a séance. The medium guy they bring in for the shindig asks what the ghost wants and casts a bunch of Campbell’s Alphabet Dice. Jumanji-style, the game pieces rearrange themselves to spell out Mater Mortis, which, if I remember my Latin from the SATs, loosely translates to “Dead Mommy.” Lovely creatures, these ghosts. Also, since I’m a devoted Whovian and there’s a gas mask in the room, I’ve got to ask, “Are you my mummy?”
“I hear voices in the hallway,” Dalton says as we see him hiding from Josh. “Is something wrong with Daddy?” No, kid, he’s just talking to his imaginary friends. With his mind. And also extracting a bloody tooth. Um . . . yes, something is definitely wrong with Daddy.
A very scary version of “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” plays in the background as we hear Lorraine exposit the obvious: the ghosts aren’t done with them yet. As the medium/psychic/ghost whisperers and the parents wander around the dark house with flashlights, they discover what appear to be decaying corpses covered in bed sheets; in other words, ghosts dressing up as ghosts, because even ghosts celebrate Halloween. About a dozen rocking horses rock back and forth, making my English major brain go straight to D. H. Lawrence’s “The Rocking Horse Winner.”
The medium guy touches what appears to be a black wedding dress and gets visions of two of the creepiest old people I’ve ever seen. Josh tells his wife that something evil must have followed him back from the ghost world of the first movie (what is it with people stating the obvious around here?). Renai gets attacked by a flying baby carriage, and someone who bears an uncomfortable resemblance to Warwick Davis as the Leprechaun smiles through a curtain.
Doors slam on their own, Josh screams at the ghosts to get out of his head, Renai gets a hug from a bed sheet, and the woman in white opens her mouth way too wide and points. Yawning and pointing; someone needs to teach this woman manners. Someone goes flying out the window and Renai clobbers someone else, probably Josh. If I’m right about that, I call domestic abuse on that. And the trailer ends with the medium guy telling Josh there’s someone standing in front of him, saying over and over again, “He’s got your baby!” It’s supposed to be unsettling, and the fact that the ghost is too old to be shirtless makes it very disturbing indeed, but all I can see is some kid on the playground saying, “I got your nose! I got your nose!”
So based on the trailer, do I recommend the movie? It really depends, I guess. The trailer does a decent job of making the film look creepy most of the time. I like the subtle little tricks like having the woman in white appear mid-shot as Rose Byrne walks by. On the other hand, we’re basically retreading the same ground we went over in the first movie. We may be getting a little deeper into the story, but I watch this trailer and the trailer for the original movie and I have to say a lot of things look the same. You’ve got the gas mask, the metronome, the rocking horse, and the baby monitor all making repeat appearances. And when it’s not ripping off the first film, it’s trying to outdo it; for example, one rocking horse becomes ten. The whole trailer feels like it’s trying to be bigger, and maybe that’s the problem. See, the scariest monster is the one you never see, and little scares can go a long way. Comparing the trailers by themselves, I feel like the first one was simpler and a lot creepier. But if you liked the first Insidious film, you’ll probably like this one. There are much worse horror sequels, but then again, there are much better horror movies. So personally, the next time I feel like unnerving myself with a scary movie, I’ll pop in Gremlins.
Insidious: Chapter 2 is owned by IM Global.