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Not-so-scary seconds Insidious: Chapter 2'

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Insidious: Chapter 2 Insidious: Chapter 2

 

Horror sequel falls short of original

Like it or not, the movie business is driven by profit. We can go on and on about artistry and merit and all that, but the truth is that by and large, the movies that get made are the ones that make a lot of money.

In terms of percentages, 2011's most profitable film wasn't one of the many blockbuster franchise offerings the studios churned out. No, it was a low-cost horror movie with a budget of less than $2 million. 'Insidious' was a massive hit by any definition, making just shy of $100 million globally at a cost of just $1.5 million to make.

 

So of course, there had to be a sequel.

'Insidious: Chapter 2' picks up where the first movie left off; Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson, 'The Conjuring') has rescued his son Dalton (Ty Simpkins, 'Iron Man 3') from the mysterious land-beyond-death known as the Further. Josh and his wife Renai (Rose Byrne, 'The Internship') have moved in with Josh's mother Lorraine (Barbara Hershey, TV's 'Once Upon a Time') in an effort to put the past behind them.

As you might expect, simply moving doesn't work.
 
The family finds itself once again caught up in the midst of supernatural intrigue. Dalton continues to have the bad dreams that led him into danger previously, while Josh battles ghostly forces that have rendered Renai helpless to assist him. As Renai and Lorraine probe deeper  with the assistance of a team of paranormal investigators  horrors are unearthed and secrets from the past are brought to life  secrets that might be the only thing that can save them all.

In terms of performance, you could do a lot worse. Patrick Wilson is carving out a nice niche as the 'just a little too talented to be here' guy in these lower-budget projects. He does a nice turn as the tormented and conflicted Josh. Rose Byrne is surprisingly solid; she occasionally feels a bit pretty-facey to me, but she pulls this role off. And Barbara Hershey has a long, storied career  she brings a touch of class to the proceedings and makes an honest effort. No one would have faulted her for a phoned-in performance, but she genuinely seems invested.

There's some nice atmosphere generated, and the film builds on its own mythology in an occasionally interesting way. The first half is particularly good about using the first film as a jumping-off point into more in-depth story development. Unfortunately, the spinning plates of the plot begin to crash to the floor in the second half, when the film dissolves into formula and simply does its level best to get to the ending. (It is worth noting that for many horror franchises, you don't necessarily need to see the original to engage with the sequel. However, in this case, familiarity with the original film will make the viewing of this one much more compelling.) 

There are a few decent scares here and there, but for the most part, 'Insidious: Chapter 2' falls short of the bar set by its predecessor. Director James Wan has a firm grasp on how to get the most out of his usually limited resources, but too much of this film feels derivative. In the end, the film is torpedoed by the lack of consistent tension generated by the script (co-written by Wan and frequent collaborator Leigh Wannell).

It's not so much that 'Insidious: Chapter 2' is ineffective; it just isn't that interesting. For horror fans and those who want to see the 'Insidious' tale continued, this will make for an OK viewing experience. For the rest, you won't miss out by waiting to watch it at home.

[2 out of 5]

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