Insidious: Chapter 2 is Entertaining but has Too Much Going on

Ensign Lestat's Film Log, 15/10/2013

Let's start this blog off with a bang - SPOILER ALERT!

When last we saw the Lambert's in 'Insidious', Josh (Patrick Wilson) had just rescued his son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) from the spirit world, but along with him came something else.
'Insidious: Chapter 2' - the nightmare continues.
In 'Insidious: Chapter 2', we are back with the family, but now they're in the midst of an investigation into the murder of psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye). They move into the home of Josh's mother, Lorraine (Barbara Hershey).

Unfortunately for them, it isn't long before Renai (Rose Byrne) begins detecting more suspicious activity in this house. Could it be that the spirit world has yet to leave them be?

We are also re-introduced to Elise's partners in crime, Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (screenplay-writer Leigh Whannell). They go back to Elise's house and find an old tape of Elise's initial investigation on Josh. They find something very interesting in the background and inform Lorraine of the same.

'Chapter 2' deals with a multitude of storylines. It is evident that not everything is well with Josh - he is caught talking to himself, and he appears to have forgotten key information about his own relationship with Renai. Dalton is also being haunted by creatures in his closet. There appears to be a strange lady in white haunting Lorraine's house - she attacks the youngest Lambert child as well as poor Renai.

Lorraine and Elise's confederates return to the old hospital where she used to work, on the behest of a spirit they contacted during a seance, and come across information regarding a certain Parker Crane. When they go to Crane's house a very frightening secret is revealed to them.
Don't believe everything you read. The seance that leads the investigators to places they shouldn't know about.
Barely escaping with their lives and heads intact they plot a way to bring down Crane. Their plot is unfortunately foiled by the devious Crane and the lady in white. And part of the story returns to the spirit world, where we are re-introduced to Elise.

Eventually the bad guys are destroyed and the Lambert family are together again.

This film is fabulously entertaining due to the plethora of storylines and characters. Unfortunately, it suffers from the same as well. We see young Josh, Lorraine and Elise at the beginning of the film, and that plays a crucial role in the film.

In this film Specs and Tucker have larger and more important roles, the two of them filling the space of Elise. We have the addition of Carl (Steve Coulter), Elise's former partner, now dragged into this mess by Specs and Tucker. Lorraine gets more to do as she is part of the band investigating Crane.
Specs, Elise and Tucker.
We also follow Renai, terrified at the thought and later the confirmation that the spirits still haunt them. We have Dalton afraid of slipping back into the spirit world and unable to get out, as well as seeing ghosts and spirits run about the house.

Next up we have Josh in the real world, he is as creepy as ever, holding conversations with an imaginary mother who is obviously pushing him to commit acts that he does not want to.
Creepy Josh is spotted by his son Dalton.
Once we're back in the spirit world we meet the real Josh, who has been behind the strange occurrences in Lorraine's house - he's been trying to grab Renai's attention, but has not succeeded. He's trapped, while his body decays with an evil spirit inside him. Elise finds him and they look for Crane's mother.

In the spirit world time is not linear, so Josh's gang become privy to Crane's childhood - a very sad one, with his mother attempting to raise him as a girl and abusing him when he doesn't conform to her wishes. She's insane, simple as that.

With so much going on, there's little time to get the scares in, and this film greatly lacks in the scares department. There were a couple of startling moments, but nothing to keep you up at night. The woman in black in the first film is hardly seen, and that is a great flaw as she was a powerful character and would have been a fabulous source for frights.

The lady in white in this film is just barking, she doesn't do anything particularly scary, and she definitely doesn't look scary.
Barking mad! Okay, this picture makes her look scarier than in the movie.
The story in this film seemed more interested in explaining the characters and developing them than scaring the audience. Okay, now I'm usually for character development, but with so many tangential storylines, the character development was not as fleshed out as it could have been.

I think my chief issue with the Crane character (and his mother) was establishing a believable reason behind them serial killing a bunch of girls. And, was it them? Or was it just him? Or was it just her? Anyway, none of it explains why those random girls were killed and their bodies kept in the chapel in the basement. It was bizarre! At some point mother of Crane mentions that for Crane to survive in Josh's body he must kill Josh's family. Okay, maybe in this universe that's how spirits survive. But, then, does it mean that Crane's mother was surviving in Crane's body through the killings? If so, why specifically kill girls? Then just randomly kill anything that walks?
The dead will rise.
Also, when first we meet Crane, he's in a hospital bed after having castrated himself. He attempts to get into Josh's body but fails. Now, we know for a fact (near the end of the film) that mother Crane was punishing her son by making him change his identity, so why, only when he is an old man does he try to become a woman? It makes no sense. Unless, this is when his mother contacts him and wants to enter his body and is trying to make it more to her liking. Even then, what took her so long? They'd obviously been in touch despite her death, so why didn't she try and enter the human world before through Crane?

Or is it that the girls were all killed as potential vessels for the mother? And then when it didn't work they tortured and killed them? I think I'll just give up on theorising this. It's just a film. But not being able to establish a motive made it difficult to completely connect with the characters.

Yet again the spirit world scenes were more interesting than the real world and Josh was a much more compelling character than most of the others combined.
Can anybody see me? 
There is this scene when Josh and Renai in the real world are trying to understand what is going on in the piano room, and Josh says it's nothing and they leave. As they walk out we're transported to the spirit world where the real Josh is screaming his lungs out at yet another failed attempt to attract his wife's attention.

One of the best scenes in the film is actually one of the least necessary. Josh has met with Carl in the other world and Carl suddenly stops because there's a seriously creepy ghost staring Josh in the face telling him that someone has got his baby.
In yer face! Josh is lucky enough to not see what's in front of him.
They look to where he's pointing and it turns out to be Josh's house. They go over and see there's a long-haired spirit inside the house. This scene combines scenes from this film with those of the first in a very believable way. It establishes the non-linear nature of time in the spirit world as well as an opportunity to bring Elise back in the picture. She saves them from the spirit and it is a precursor to her later actions that will justify the importance of her character. I loved how that whole scene was done, it was great direction by James Wan, even if it was a bit showy.

It's difficult to pinpoint the acting in the film, because there's very little screen-time for most of the characters. Patrick Wilson, however, gets the most to do as he is not playing Josh in the real world, and is also present in the other world. Wilson's take on creepy Josh is frighteningly believable - he is cold and distant, and has a very evil spark in his eye. He is to be commended for bringing such a change to his character. The Josh of the other world is beautifully simple and lost. He's eager, scared and worried. When he is re-introduced to us it brings into sharp contrast the man who is living in his house with his family. Very good job done by him.
I'm just sitting here, pretending to be completely normal. Ain't you believing me?
The rest of the cast ably pull of their roles. I enjoyed the increased roles of Tucker and Specs - they brought in the much-needed humour without being overbearing. It's always nice to see Leigh Whannell on the big screen.

This film is really enjoyable and thoroughly entertaining. It has an epilogue that teases the possibility of more sequels, though they may not include the Lamberts. If I could have remembered more of the first film (which I had watched almost exactly a year prior) it may have made the film even more fun. I couldn't remember much except for the ending and had to keep asking my sister who the characters were and what their names were.

Wan and Whannell are the horror masters of the new generation, but their attempts are faltering. Let's hope their next outing is genuinely scary and interesting.
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