A textbook case of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’
Insidious Chapter 2
Two stars (out of four)
“Is there something wrong with Daddy?” asks an anxious Dalton of his even more worried mother.
Quick answer: yes.
After battling successfully in Insidious to bring Dalton back from the dark netherworld where unhappy spirits reside known as The Further, Daddy, aka Josh Lambert, is in desperate need of a periodontist (his teeth keep falling out), a dermatologist (for his suddenly flaky skin) and very possibly an exorcist.
Insidious Chapter 2 picks up where the first one left off: the day after the night before when Josh (played by Patrick Wilson), possessed of an evil spirit, strangles the grandmotherly medium Elise.
Josh remembers nothing and the police are on the case. But it’s pretty clear that earthly authorities are going to be of little use to the troubled Lambert family.
To the list of other films from which horrormeister James Wan derives his inspiration for the second Insidious instalment, add The Shining (1980), sans the snowbound inn.
This time, a new medium has been brought in by Josh’s mom, Lorraine (Barbara Hershey), this one armed with a set of what look like Boggle dice. Nerdy ghost busters Specs and Tucker are back, and so is Elise (Lin Shaye), who seems to bear no ill will for her rather brutal departure from the first film.
Having found a successful formula in the original — which made almost $100 million worldwide — Wan sticks with the maxim of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” right down to the shimmering opening credits, the ominous score and the sudden scares.
The plot barely matters; there’s a new mystery to unravel: who is bedevilling Josh and his family? This time, while the evil spectre may have questionable parenting skills, at least she isn’t a silly Darth Maul look-alike.
The performances are also pretty much on par with the first, with Rose Byrne as Josh’s wife Renai, even more anxious to protect her children, and the always watchable Hershey getting an expanded role. Wilson gets to extend his range a little further from the skeptical dad in part 1 to a Jekyll-and-Hyde wannabe. And dead or alive, Lin Shaye’s Elise as the ghost medium is awfully good.
If there is a fundamental flaw in Chapter 2, it’s that it will make absolutely no sense unless you’ve seen the first one.
Those who enjoyed the first will find the second chapter perfectly serviceable and, to Wan’s credit, he’s capable of generating plenty of chills without resorting to gore.
Fans will be pleased to learn Wan’s clearly not finished with the Insidious franchise, with yet another cliffhanger ending much like the original, this time with a new family set to be put through the paranormal wringer.
Bruce DeMara is a syndicated Toronto Star movie critic.