Thursday, September 26, 2013

It Came From The Cineplex: Insidious Chapter 2

Insidious Chapter 2 was directed by James Wan, who also directed the first film. It was co-written by Wan and Leigh Whannell.

The film continues the story that began in Insidious, but unlike most sequels it didn't feel like a rehash of the original. The first film concentrated on the Lambert's young son and his supernatural adventures, while Insidious Chapter 2 shifts the focus to Josh Lambert, the father.

To be honest I couldn't remember if I'd even seen the first movie or not. I've seen so many similar films in the past couple of years, such as The Haunting In Connecticut, Dark Skies, The Possession and Sinister. After a while they all blend together. I finally googled Insidious and vaguely remembered a couple of plot points.

Thank the gods old and new that I refreshed my memory before I saw Chapter 2, or I'd have had no idea what the hell was going on. 

Unlike most movies these days, this one has a fairly intricate plot and actually rewards the audience for paying attention. Unfortunately it's just not scary. At all. As my pal KW Monster said, the scariest part of the whole movie was the shrieking title card at the beginning and end.

Made for a mere $5 million, it's grossed over $65 million so far and is on track to hit the $100 million mark. Look for Insidious Chapter 3, 4 and on through 10 any day now.

OTHERWORLDLY SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Plot:
A full-fledged plot synopsis would take at least twenty five paragraphs, but I'll do my best. 

Let's recap the first film to get everyone up to speed, shall we? Josh and Renai Lambert move into a new home. Unknown to them their son Dalton begins astrally projecting his mind into the afterlife, leaving his physical body comatose in the real world. The constant coming and going of his spirit allows the undead to tag along with him. One particularly evil entity comes through and latches onto Josh, possessing him. This Evil Josh kills Elise Rainier, a paranormal investigator who suspects the truth about him.

Chapter 2 picks up right where the first film left off. Evil Josh manages to wriggle out of a murder charge, but Renai (and the police) still suspect something's wrong with him. Renai notices the supernatural occurrences are starting up again.

Josh's mother Lorraine and Elise's assistants Specs and Tucker investigate the strange events. They discover that Josh is being possessed by the ghost of Parker Crane, a deceased transvestite serial killer who murdered victims while dressed as a bride (!). The real Josh's soul is trapped somewhere in the afterlife. 

Evil Josh realizes Renai knows the truth about him and attempts to kill her. Dalton uses his astral projecting superpower to enter the afterlife and rescue his father Josh. They meet up, and with the help of the ghost of Elise, are able to evict the ghost of Parker Crane from Josh's body.

Pros:
• In 1986 Young Elise videotapes an interview with Young Josh. During this interview he turns to his right, says, "I'll show you" and then gets up and points at a door which mysteriously opens by itself. The onlookers, including Young Elise, are mystified by this incident.

In the present day Josh astral projects himself back to this 1986 interview and asks his younger self where to find the demon's memories. We then realize that Young Josh was actually answering his older self and Current Josh was the one who (invisibly) opened the door.

It's a neat and well-done little bit of ghostly time travel. Unfortunately it's marred by Old Elise having an "Aha!" moment and stating, "So THAT'S what that was about!" She might as well have looked into the camera and said "Did you get all that, audience?"

• Speaking of Elise, the film comes to life (see what I did there?) whenever she's onscreen. Veteran actress Lin Shaye (Snakes On A Plane, There's Something About Mary and many more) does a great job as Elise I'm glad they figured out a way to bring her back despite the fact that she died in the previous film. Expect to see her again when Chapter 3 rolls around in a couple of years.

Lindsay Seim plays Young Elise and also does a great job. Seim's voice sounded exactly like Shaye's. I wonder... just a good impression, or did Shaye dub the voice?

Cons:
• As the film opens, the police suspect Josh of killing Elise. The two were were sitting alone at the Lambert's kitchen table the last time Elise was seen alive, so it seems like a pretty open and shut case to me.

Later the police call Renai and tell her that the scratch marks on Elise's neck don't match Josh's hands or fingers or prints or some such nonsense, and he's off the hook. What kind of police procedure is that? 

If two people go into a room but only one comes out and the other's dead with their throat torn out, that seems like pretty damning evidence to me, whether their hands fit the marks or not.

Obviously the screenwriters needed to get rid of the whole pesky murder thing so they could tell their little ghost story, but they did so in the most offhanded and unbelievable manner possible.

• Naturally the Lamberts own an iMac. Every family in every movie I've seen in the past  five years owns one, despite the fact that their market share is far, far lower than that of the PC. Someone with more time than I have should start an "iMacs In The Movies" Tumblr.

• Elise's assistants Specs and Tucker are back. They were in the first film and are obviously meant to provide comedy relief. Unfortunately every one of their "humorous" moments thuds to the ground like a sack of wet cement.

• At the end of the film Renai locks herself and the kids in the basement to escape Evil Josh. He begins pounding on the basement door with a sledgehammer, trying to bust it down.

These scenes of Evil Josh trying to break down the door look remarkably like the ones of Jack Torrance doing the same thing in The Shining. I suppose there are only so many ways to film a guy trying to break down a door, but any second I expected him to stick his head through a hole and quip, "Heeeeere's Joshy!"

A decent followup to an OK movie, but unfortunately it's not particularly scary unless you're frightened by dead people hiding under soiled sheets or evil transvestite ghosts. I give it a B-.

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