Insidious: Chapter 2 is a bad movie, but not it’s without its charms. It’s an unusual horror sequel in that the two leads — Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne — actually returned for it, but considering that the first movie made nearly $100 million worldwide on a meager $1.5 million budget, I suspect those two actors finally wanted to be paid for the first movie’s success. The second installment, which picks up right where the first left off, is a decent, though insubstantial fall offering. It’s silly, inconsequential, often boring, and packed full of jump-scares and haunting images, which makes it an ideal date-night DVD/Netflix movie for those less interested in good storytelling, and more interested in peeing on the couch. In that respect, Insidious: Chapter 2 is a crowd pleaser.
When we last left off, Patrick Wilson’s character, Josh, had travelled into the spirit world to rescue his son from evil. While he was away, however, the psychic medium who had assisted Josh in getting into the spirit world, Elise Rainier (Lyn Shaye), had been murdered by the bad, bad spirits (there’s a police investigation into Elise’s murder that’s introduced and then completely abandoned ten minutes later). We find out immediately that Elise and Josh actually have a history together. When Josh was a boy, he had the ability to see into and communicate with that spirit world. Elise was brought in by Josh’s mother in 1986 to hypnotize Josh into repressing the memory of his ability to do so.
Fast forward to the present day, and Josh and his wife, Renai (Rose Byrne) have scooped up their kids and brought them to the house of Josh’s mother, where it all began. However, Josh isn’t quite what he seems, and the terrifying ghosts from the spirit world continue to spill into Josh’s home, assaulting the kids, throwing Renai across the room, and generally wreaking terror. Parents may find it doubly frightening, because the goddamn she-devil at the center of this installment keeps messing with the baby in the crib. NOT COOL.
Elise’s assistants from the first movie (Angus Sampson and Leigh Wannell, who also serves as screenwriter) come in to help out, along with Elise’s old assistant from the 1980s, Carl (Steve Coulter). Joining Josh’s mother (Barbara Hershey), they communicate with Elise in the spirit world and investigate why Josh isn’t who he seems to be, why spirits continue to bleed into their world, and how to make it stop.
The plot itself is hokey, and frequently veers into incredibly cheesy territory involving a gender confused serial killer, the ghost of his mother, and a lot of walking around, both in the real world and the spirit world. Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson provide serviceable performances, while the rest of the cast is fairly bad, but in an almost endearing kind of way (Sampson provides some decent comic relief, or at least tries to; the attempt is more appreciated than the actual execution).
Still, what made the first Insidious movie successful — James Wan’s creepy imagery and jump scares that will make you sh*t your pants — are in full effect in Insidious: Chapter 2, and they’re often more effective because they arrive just as the story lulls you to sleep. It does not make up for the fact that Insidious: Chapter 2 is a lousy movie, but it at least offers a compelling reason to latch onto your dates while you’re experiencing it.