The original Insidious was one of the rare mainstream horror films that understood less was more in a genre that can’t help but exploit every stereotype available.  Director James Waan managed to show restrain and allow Insidious to develop its characters rather than just try and spook its audience.  Perhaps Waan used the remainder of his restraint earlier this summer with The Conjuring (also starring Wilson), because Insidious Chapter 2 is not the polished and subdued follow-up it should be.  Instead, Chapter 2 adheres to the more obvious sequel rules, bigger, louder, and more obnoxious.  Its saving grace is the fact that it goes back to the beginning and answers questions we were left with last time, and does attempt to make sense of things.

Josh (Wilson) and Renai (Byrne) thought all their problems were over when Josh went into the spirit world with the help of family friend Elise (Shaye) to retrieve the soul of their son Dalton, who had been in a coma for months.  When Josh returned, Elise was dead, and now everyone, including Josh’s mother Lorraine (Hershey), believe something came back with Josh.  The hauntings, visions, and nightmares have not gone away; and now Dalton, still very connected to another world, is experiencing frightening visions.  Josh’s behavior begins to reveal a darkness that prompts Renai and Lorraine to seek help from Josh’s childhood, now that Elise is no longer with them.

I was very thankful for that refresher at the beginning of the film, because this sequel comes quite a few years after the original, and while the first one was certainly a step above most, it certainly never warranted a second viewing.  There are so many dark basements, abandoned hospital rooms, and squeaky doors in this one I really kept hoping for some WD 40 and night vision.  Some of the scenes where the characters interact with the ghosts are ridiculous to the point where the audience laughs, and I never take that as a good sign.  There are, however (if you are scared by this stuff), some moments that might frighten those who allow it, but it’s always in scenes where something or someone is behind someone else.

Chapter 2 works in past, present, and spirit world, and really strains the horror viewer’s attention to grasp what the point of it all is.  Yes, answers are given, but its main goal this time around is to creep you out with goose bumps and scary images, and it partially succeeds in that; however, the performances are all but phoned in here. Admirable actors Byrne, Hershey and Wilson didn’t captivate me as they did in the previous film, but Shaye continues to be the series strongest element (and yes we are set up for chapter 3).

Final Thought – Replaces much of the subtly and focus of the first film with cheap scares.

Grade C         By: Dustin Chase