Saturday, January 4, 2014

Horror Film Review

Insidious 2 (2013):  The hype surrounding this franchise borders on rabid, which is in keeping with Hollywood's tradition of beating a dead horse when a film is a box office success.  The first film contains one of the best scares I've ever experienced and I feared the sequel would be nothing more than a rehash.  It is...and it isn't.  One thing you do get with the sequel that the original lacked is answers.  And trust me, those answers might keep you up at night.

Like the Freelings from Poltergeist, the Lambert family can't seem to buy a break.  Renai (Rose Byrne) is at the police station where a detective tries to understand how Elise (Lin Shaye) died.  A eerily calm Josh (Patrick Wilson) does his best to shoehorn the family back into a semblance of normalcy.  That lasts all of one day.  First Patrick's mom Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) then his wife Renai  experiences a brand new round of supernatural shenanigans.  Lorraine meets up with Elise's former associates Carl (Steve Coulter), Specs (Leigh Whannell), and Tucker (Angus Sampson) and the four of them start piecing together the mystery behind not only the current activity but also what instigated it.  As you may imagine, when Patrick returned from the other side with Dalton (Ty Simpkins) he wasn't exactly himself.  Now, the race is on to save the family from Patrick as well as Patrick himself.

I never understood the deal with the old woman at the end of the first film.  I do now.  And it's creepy as hell although slightly clich├ęd.  You see, not only are elements of Poltergeist present but also choice slices of Hitchcock's Psycho.  I hesitate to say these iconic films have been ripped off.  It's more of an homage. 

What I liked...the humor generated by the loyal yet perpetually nerdy Specs and Tucker.  I liked that the scares aren't manufactured by suddenly cranking the soundtrack to 11 when the scary thing happens.  Well, some are but most are subtle.  I liked that Barbara Hershey had much more to do this time around.  I forgot how good she is.  I also liked how the film jumps right in without bothering to provide a recap of the first one, so if you haven't seen the original, you'll probably be confused.  Exposition can kill a horror flick.  What didn't I like?  I didn't like that Renai comes off as a simpering victim who's perpetually terrified.  Neither did I like the death toll.  By the end, it stands at zero.  Odd.

The Skinny

Acting:  Hershey's fun to watch.  Wilson plays Josh with reserved menace.  Perhaps a bit too reserved at times.  Byrne as Renai is frustrating. 
Story:  As I said...homage.  That's not to say it isn't effective.  It's just familiar.
Direction:  James Wan knows what he's doing.  And how.
Production Values:  Considering the success of the first film and quality of this one, the $5 million budget is a shock.  I would have guessed double that at least.  By way of comparison, the budget for the first Poltergeist was over $10 million.  Why?  One word:  Spielberg. 
Gore/FX:  No blood.  A healthy amount of CGI that's impossible to distinguish from reality.
Scares:  Yeah.  Just a few. 
Ending:  A cliffhanger from hell. Remember the trailer where a visibly shaken and wide-eyed Elise says, "Oh...my...God" in a husky whisper?  That's it.  What's she looking at?  No idea.  On the upside, we know there will definitely be a third installment.
Verdict:  Should you see Insidious Chapter 2?  No reason not to.  Unless, that is, you don't enjoy having the ever-loving crap scared out of you.  It's old school horror reimagined for a modern audience.  That's not insidious...that's marvelous.

Rating:  4 out of 5

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