Review: Insidious: Chapter 2
Director: James Wan
Screenplay: Leigh Warren
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barabra Hershey
Synopsis is here:
My viewing relationship with James Wan (director) and Leigh Whannell (writer) isn’t a great one, but it’s not a terrible. Despite originally being a massive fan of Saw upon its release, the two have done little to wow me since their début. There’s no doubt that the relationship is a fruitful one. Between them; their films have made serious bank at the box office. It also didn't surprise me that due to Wan’s ability to wrap action orientated shoots quickly, he’s taking on the next Fast and the Furious film in time for next year. I do hope however, that Wan gives us a stronger effort with that massively budgeted franchise than the limp wristed entry we’re given here. I found Insidious: Chapter 2 not only nonsensical (time travel? Honestly?), but it’s also tedious as a horror movie.
Critic Mark Kermode has noted that film’s like Insidious: Chapter 2 are horror films for people who dislike horror and I’m inclined to agree, to a point. Wan is clearly cine-literate and Chapter 2 borrows liberally from the likes of The Shining (1980), The Astronauts Wife (1999), The Entity (1982) and Poltergeist (1982) for many of its scenes but does so in such an obvious way that you feel that Wan is hedging bets that his audience doesn't know or no longer care about the films that he’s borrowing from. Wan then strips each reference of the atmosphere that made the films what they were and instead fills very sequence with protracted BOO moments that annoy rather than unsettle.
It’s strange that one of the producers on this feature was Oren Peli; a man whose claim to fame was orchestrating the extremely popular Paranormal Activity, a film’s tension was provided by capturing those disturbing hours where seemingly nothing happens. Peli knew just how uneasy someone could feel due to the power of stillness. Insidious: Chapter 2 betrays this by manhandling the viewer whenever it can. The camera pans, scans and zooms to absolute distraction, while the films score and loud bangs invade your eardrums at very moment. It’s all more than a little too much.
This may not have been an issue if the characters and story we were observing were compelling. The films confounding screenplay is never particularly interesting when Wan actually utilises downtime. Not only happy to rip off nearly every cliché in the book, the films cardboard characters have to utter some extremely tin eared dialogue. A conundrum soon appears. We have a film that’s often too loud to get the best of out of it, yet when it actually quietens down...it’s not worth listening to.
Going back to the idea established in the second paragraph, films like Insidious: Chapter 2 seem to be catering to a generation who believe that true horror is how high the popcorn flies. The worrying aspect is not that these people dislike horror, but that the factors behind what is considered a scary movie have shifted. With one of the current arguments about cinema being the “second screen experience” and whether or not there should be special requirements for those who can’t be torn away from their social networks. It is no surprise that we are given a film with no real narrative, but exists to make the viewer jump to attention every other minute?