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New Release Review - Insidious: Chapter 2

The Lambert family continues to be plagued by malevolent spirits.

Directed by: James Wan
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, Lin Shaye, Ty Simpkins, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Steve Coulter


Immediately following the events of the first film, the Lamberts move into the home of Josh's (Wilson) mother, Lorraine (Hershey). Pretty soon, Renai (Byrne) and Dalton (Simpkins) become the subject of harassment from the spirit world. Josh shows them little sympathy as his personality seems to take a dark turn. Meanwhile, paranormal investigators Specs (Whannell) and Tucker (Sampson) enlist the aid of Carl (Coulter) to make contact with the spirit of their deceased colleague Elise (Shaye).
Almost a decade ago, director James Wan, along with his regular writing partner Leigh Whannell, reinvigorated the horror genre with the cleverly plotted 'Saw', indirectly giving birth to the much derided sub-genre of "torture porn". A host of uninventive ripoffs and inferior sequels have since muddied the water, making it easy to forget just what a good job Wan did with his first full-length feature. In a gesture that seems to give the finger to the awful films he inspired, Wan has gone on to concentrate on movies based around atmosphere rather than gore; at least that's the theory.
With 'Saw', Wan tortured his characters but his last three movies, this, its prequel and the huge hit 'The Conjuring', have tortured audiences instead. Stubbing cigarettes out on arms, listening to a full Rihanna album or spending Christmas with in-laws are all forms of punishment I'd gladly opt for, rather than sitting through another of Wan's dire 'Poltergeist' wannabes. Several critics walked out of my screening early but in the interest of professionalism, and a masochistic streak, I stuck it out to the end and by the time the credits rolled I was ready to claw my eyes out. It takes a very talented film-maker to make an effective haunted house movie (even Kubrick failed) and, after three attempts, it's all too clear that Wan just can't cut it.
If you saw 'The Conjuring', (and, given the box-office numbers, you probably did) then there's no need to watch 'Insidious: Chapter 2', as the main set-pieces of that film are shamelessly repeated here. Kids insisting they can see spirits standing behind adults? Check. A dark-haired female ghost leaping out of a wardrobe? Check. Creepy dolls? Check.
Wan has been imitating 'Poltergeist' over the course of these terrible films and here, with Josh going cuckoo, he throws 'The Shining' into the mix. Apart from that, it's almost a repeat of the template of the first film, complete with an overlong finale in a spirit world that resembles the set of a nineties Marilyn Manson video.
Despite throwing every haunted house cliche at the audience (kids toys coming to life, pianos playing themselves, ghosts appearing in bathroom mirrors), Wan fails to provide one single genuine scare. Thanks to one of the most obtrusive scores in horror history, along with annoying "whooshing" sound effects accompanying camera moves, every scare moment is telegraphed before being rendered less effective by a loud bang. This use of sound is a sign that the director doesn't have confidence in his ability to create mood or shocks visually. In Wan's case, such a lack of confidence is wholly justified. His next job is helming 'Fast and Furious 7' a movie that should suit his crash-bang style more comfortably.
It's always a bad idea for a film-maker to include a clip of a classic horror movie, as it just serves to remind audiences how bad their own attempt is in comparison. Here, Wan gives us a clip from Herk Harvey's masterpiece of mood, 1962's 'Carnival of Souls'. If you want to see horror as it should be, go watch that gem before you even think of putting yourself through the ordeal that is 'Insidious: Chapter 2', a movie so terrible that, were it not for a couple of gross-out comedies, would be hands-down the worst thing I've seen all year. When handled correctly, horror is the most cinematic of all genres but it's thanks to garbage like this that it struggles to be taken seriously.
1/10


Eric Hillis

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