Title: Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)
Director: James Wan
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye, Ty Simpkins, Barbara Hershey, Steve Coulter
What do you mean James Wan is no longer doing horror films? What? This guy was born for this! I was shocked to learn that Wan will not be making horror films anymore; according to Wan himself, Insidious: Chapter 2 will be his last one. Too bad, I mean, the guy got started thanks to the horror genre with the highly successful franchise starter Saw (2004), a film that shocked me the first time I saw it. I remember I immediately saw it again; with a friend of course! I wanted others to experience that jolt to the system that the first Saw film gave me. Same with The Conjuring (2013), a horror film that I quickly recommended to as many people as possible, I mean, that was a great horror movie man! The Conjuring brought 70s styles scares back! It brought the supernatural horror film back in a good way, not in a goofy way which is what usually happens. Sometimes I go see these supernatural films hoping to see the next The Exorcist (1973), but end up with films like the extremely crappy Lost Souls (2000).The Conjuring has been a huge hit for director James Wan, it’s still in theaters and so far it’s close to reaching the 300 million dollar mark worldwide. So, hot on the heels of The Conjuring, here comes Insidious: Chapter 2. Can James Wan deliver a double whammy of horror excellence? And why is he abandoning the horror genre?
(Above) Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013) (Below) Carnival of Souls (1962)
Insidious: Chapter 2 picks up exactly where the previous film left off, with the Lambert family recovering from the events that took place in the first film in which Josh, the dad of the family, had an out of body experience and actually visited the afterlife in order to find his sons spirit, which was lingering somewhere in "the other side" or "the further" as they call it in these films. Problem is that apparently, when Josh and his son came back, they didn’t come back alone, an evil entity came back with them and now it haunts the Lamberts! It's seems evil spirits just don't want to leave this family alone! What does the entity want with this family and will they ever lead a normal life again?
James Wan is awesome as a horror director, and it’s a real pity he doesn’t want to continue doing horror. He says he doesn’t want to be pigeon holed into making only one type of film. He mentions that Hollywood loves to put you in a box, and if the box they put you in is the horror box, then that’s all you’ll ever be. But Wan wants to break with that, he wants to do all types of films, not just horror. Which is understandable, I mean, sure, every horror director eventually branches out and decides to venture in other directions, even the most hardcore of horror directors does a film that has nothing to do with horror. I mean, look at George Romero’s Knightriders (1981), Wes Craven’s Music from the Heart (1999) or Stuart Gordon’s The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit (1998). Hey, for further proof just look at Sam Raimi who was at one time one of the most popular horror directors and what is he now? He’s gone mainstream Hollywood for Christ’s sake! Horror films have always been a breeding ground for great directors. Many of today’s best directors started out with a horror film, just look at Oliver Stone’s The Hand (1981) if you don’t believe me. So Wan’s move doesn’t surprise; he is currently shooting Fast and Furious 7 (2014). Of course directing a huge summer movie like Fast and Furious 7 is a tempting thing for Wan. I mean, here’s a guy who started making independent horror films and now he’s been given the opportunity to direct a summer blockbuster, with a budget many times over the micro budgets he was used to working with. Of course he’ll take the opportunity, it’s a smart move economically and career wise, but trust me; he’ll be back! They always come back to horror! Just look at Sam Raimi’s who returned from his horror hiatus to direct Drag Me to Hell (2009). So let’s hope that we haven’t seen the last of James Wan’s incursions into the horror genre.
The thing about Insidious: Chapter 2 is that after seeing Dead Silence (2007), Insidious and The Conjuring (2013), this fourth supernatural horror film from James Wan feels just a tad repetitive. I mean, there are only so many scenes of doors slamming by themselves that I can take before I feel like I’m watching the same film over and over again. With Insidious: Chapter 2, you definitely get the feeling that we’re walking on familiar ground, sadly, it falls on repetition. Wan has a couple of things he finds scary one of them is spooky looking dolls, which is a motif that pops up in all of his horror films, even as far back as Saw. He also finds old ladies scary, he went over this in Dead Silence (2007) which was about this old lady ventriloquist and again, there was a spooky old lady ghost demon thing in Insidious (2010), and yet again in Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013). So all of Wan’s supernatural horror films have a similarity to them, they kind of feel like they exist in the same universe or something. But my first impression with Insidious: Chapter 2 was that Wan and his writing partner Leigh Whannell are running out of ideas. Apparenty, The Conjuring was the apex of Wan’s explorations in supernatural horror, Insidious Chapter 2 feels like one supernatural horror film too many. He should have taken a stab at some other type of horror film. Don’t forget boys and girls, horror films are not composed of supernatural horror alone.
Another element that makes you feel Wan is walking on tired ground is that Insidious: Chapter 2 feels like a mix between The Amityville Horror (1979) and Poltergeist (1982), weird thing is that the same can be said for Wan’s three previous horror films, they all draw from the same two films. Let’s see in Poltergeist characters have to venture to the afterlife to rescue family members…in Poltergeist we got a funny, nice old lady clairvoyant who helps the family. In Poltergeist we have these supernatural investigator types exploring everything…the similarities are there. Then we have the whole “dad turns evil” scenario that was so effectively used in The Amityville Horror and The Shinning (1980), by the way, there’s a couple of nudges to Kubrick’s classic here as well. Some moments also reminded me of Carnival of Souls (1962), especially those scenes with the ghosts and "the further". So what we have here ladies and gents is Wan and Whannell drawing from the same movies they’ve been drawing inspiration from since the first Insidious.
Still, even though it feels a bit repetitive, I say Insidious Chapter 2 is not a bad horror film at all. It has some genuinely creepy moments in it, some really well thought out scares. I gotta give it to Wan again, he sure knows how to construct a suspense filled moment, he knows how to build that tension. Also, there’s a cool spooky story in there to hold the whole film together. This time around, Wan amps up the comedic relief by way of the two paranormal investigators. The way this film ends, you kind of get the feeling that these two geeky guys are going to branch off into their own series of films, ala Ghostbusters (1984). I wouldn’t mind at all, I’m actually one of the guys that’s dying to see that Ghostbusters film that doesn’t seem to want to ever take off. The comedic relief on Insidious: Chapter 2 might be welcomed by some as a means to release some tension, but for those of us who like our hardcore, dreadfully dreadful horror vibe, well, these comedic elements might feel out of place. Still, I don’t think your enjoyment of this film will be hindered by the mild comedy. Final word: kudos to Wan for making a horror film that creeps up on you with a mere 5 million bucks! This film is making such a profit that it’s not even funny! Oren Peli (the films producer)sure knows the formula for success and he’s using it: make a quality low budget film (keword: quality) and people will back it. Not only that, since you didn’t spend all that much, you’ll get your investment back! It’s a win-win situation! So anyhow’s my people, Insidious Chapter 2 is a solid piece of supernatural horror. Now if only we could all collectively convince Wan not to “retire from horror!”
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5