If you weren’t spooked by James Wan’s 2011 supernatural horror Insidious, you stand little chance of making sense of the self-referential sequel. Screenwriter Leigh Whannell, co-creator of the bloodthirsty Saw films, reunites with director Wan to craft a mind-bending narrative that is disappointingly light on edge-of-seat shocks.
Chapter 2 continues directly after events of the first film and repeatedly throws back to unexplained phenomena from the opening chapter. The mood swings between suspense and comedy prove even more jarring in the second instalment courtesy of bumbling spectral investigators Specs (Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), who take important decisions by playing a variation of paper, rock, scissors called bear, hunter, ninja.
Dialogue creaks almost as much as the house at the centre of the malevolent manifestation. “Let’s just say, this is not a place where a lot of good things have happened!” ominously declares one character, barely resisting the urge to wink at the camera.
When we last met Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) and his wife Renai (Rose Byrne), they had moved into a new house with their sons Dalton (Ty Simpkins) and Foster (Andrew Astor), where dark forces prevailed. Josh’s mother Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) invited her supernaturally gifted friend Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) to cleanse the property, aided by Specs and Tucker. In the ensuing battle between good and evil, Elise gave up her life to shepherd Josh and Dalton between the corporeal and spirit worlds.
Chapter 2 opens with a flashback to 1986 and Elise’s first encounter with young Josh. Fast-forwarding to the present day, police probe Elise’s demise, forcing the Lamberts to move in with Lorraine.
The family prays the nightmarish ordeal is over. Of course it’s not.
Josh begins to behave erratically, which sets poor Renai on edge, and her nerves are shredded when she is attacked by a ghostly figure (Danielle Bisutti) in the living room. Weird episodes increase in frequency and Lorraine approaches Elise’s old cohort Carl (Steve Coulter) in the hope that he can connect with the dearly departed.
“We have questions that need answering,” pleads Lorraine, “and the only person we could think to ask... was Elise.”
Insidious - Chapter 2 is even more ludicrous than the first film, squandering the talents of the cast in thankless and occasionally risible roles. Wilson and Byrne are both reduced to gibbering lunatics while Hershey stumbles blindly around abandoned buildings - an apt metaphor for the directionless script.
Unintentional laughs supplant screams of terror, but to give Wan credit he doesn’t resort to splatter and gore.
The spectre of a potential third film in the series haunts the closing frames - the only thing that sends a chill down the spine in 105 forgettable minutes.
:: SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 5/10
Released: September 13 (UK & Ireland), 105 mins