Insidious: Chapter 2

Directed By: James Wan

Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye, Ty Simpkins, and Barbara Hershey

It's Friday the 13th, and I don't have a new Jason Voorhees flick to go see.  Slasher flick You're Next is still in theaters, but I could use something fresh.  What we have instead this weekend is James Wan's follow-up to his 2010 horror flick Insidious.  While I certainly am no fan of the series, it's hard to deny that the Saw director found success earlier this year in The Conjuring.  Given his recent box office triumph, I came to Insidious: Chapter 2 with an open mind despite my thoughts on its predecessor.  Sadly, I'm here to say that this second chapter in the Lambert clan's journey is just too much.  It's just too much.

Though Josh (Patrick Wilson) went into the realm known as the Further and reclaimed his son Dalton (Ty Simpkins), life is not so dandy for the Lambert family.  This quickly becomes apparent to Renai (Rose Byrne) who frequently hears the song she wrote for Josh playing at night downstairs even though everyone else is asleep.  Josh's mother Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) has her own frightening encounters with apparitions as well in the house.  Worst of all, Elise (Lin Shaye) winds up dead in their new home.  With all this turmoil, Renai and Lorraine begin searching for answers to explain the supernatural phenomena plaguing their family.  Despite their efforts, they miss the key sign that Josh has had some unusual behavior as of late.  Dalton doesn't miss it though.

We've got time-traveling spirits, possession with strings attached, ghosts with gender identity and mommy issues, regular ghosts that just don't want to stay dead, and battles unfolding in both the physical and spiritual worlds.  That's just too much for one supernatural thriller.  Insidious: Chapter 2 plays bizarrely because of this.  James Wan just needs to stick to the basics.  That's what worked for him reasonably well in The Conjuring this year.  Don't mess up my Friday the 13th with an incoherent picture trying to inundate viewers with all sorts of terrifying concepts.  It may work on the teen crowd, but not anyone else.  Build up one element of this storyline, and do that well.  That's all it takes to put together an enjoyable thrill ride.

I have to say the performances are rather underwhelming as well.  Our three main actors are Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, and Barbara Hershey.  They each have a chance to really show their stuff and shine, yet they don't.  As Josh, Wilson has the opportunity to give us one sadistic performance.  After all, he is a guy whose body is possessed by a cross-dressing, bride-obsessed killer ghost.  There's a big opportunity to really delve into this menace in a very intriguing way that's completely missed.  For her part as Renai, Rose Byrne gives us an annoying leading lady without any vitality.  She just whimpers at everything and adds nothing significant to the film.  Finally, we have veteran actress Barbara Hershey reprising her role as Josh's mom Lorraine.  She's certainly a strong maternal figure, but the Black Swan actress should have taken command of the screen when opportunity knocked.

What bothers me most about Insidious: Chapter 2 is a development in the plot that makes no sense whatsoever.  After Lorraine explores her old workplace The Lady of Our Angel Hospital and learns all about Parker Crane, she warns Renai of Josh and his possession.  What's baffling is that they all proceed to go home and relax.  If I were to learn that a spouse were possessed by a sick killer ghost, I would be checking into a hotel with the kids tonight and not thinking twice about going back home.  That’s at a minimum.  Anything less than this just seems idiotic.  Given how this poorly plays out in the film, I have to question the quality of the work that the Insidious screenwriters have done here.

There's no mistaking that James Wan knows how to bring fear to the forefront on the big screen.  However, the major problems in Insidious: Chapter 2 are that there are too many themes and too little time, underwhelming performances from the cast, and questionable screenwriting.  Because of this, Wan's efforts fall flat.  Insidious: Chapter 2 gets a 0.09% rating.  Have some mojitos with this one.