With Insidious, you hit upon a creepy idea about the supernatural worlds we escape to within our nightmares. For this sequel, you and director James Wan have decided to admirably answer the questions left by the predecessor’s cliffhanger ending. Unfortunately, whereas Insidious’ spooky and minimalist style understood the “less is more” approach to filmmaking, Insidious: Chapter 2 seems to head towards the same fate as the Friday the 13th and Final Destination series, getting sillier with each chapter. The original intent of the first film could end up getting more lost than it already has in this first sequel.
In the first movie, young Dalton finds himself trapped in the Further, a land of tormented souls who sought to use his body as a vessel to the outside world. The less effective moments in Insidious are when the demons and monsters are shown up close. Keeping them in the shadows and mostly off-screen followed the rules that sometimes what we don’t see is often times scarier than what is in our face. Unfortunately, instead of horror, the resulting sensation is closer to camp. In Insidious: Chapter 2, the evil beings get a lot of screen time, shouting at the characters and popping up, trying to produce one jump scare after another. Adding to the extended silliness, Insidious’ two comic relief ghost hunters return and are given more to do, resulting in a number of scenes that desperately try to be funny. Patrick Wilson seems to be channeling Jack Nicholson’s performance in The Shining with none of the terror, but all of the hysterics.
I especially want to know why Rose Byrne’s role as Renai has been downgraded in the sequel. There are long periods where she is not on screen, which is a shame considering Byrne perfectly portrayed the part of a scared and worried mother in Insidious. One of the best scenes in Chapter 2 is when Renai’s baby is taken by one of the ghosts; it’s the rare moment here that actually creates an element of fear on-screen. One of the few other things that work is the inventive way this connects to the first film. Chapter 2 is certainly a sequel where watching the earlier movie is required and it was a fun and clever element going back to certain scenes.
While the first Insidious obviously took some lessons from Alfred Hitchcock on how to build suspense and terror in an audience, Chapter 2 is instead nothing more than a haunted house ride and — not a particularly entertaining one at that. This runs the risk of turning into the Friday the 13th series, where character development and genuine scares are replaced with cheap thrills. When the inevitable third chapter of Insidious is made, I hope it is an expansion of the first one and not another exercise in self-parody, the fate of many long-running horror series. It is your responsibility as the main writer of this series that your creation does not become a joke later down the road. Even if it does, in thirty years, expect to find a credit on your IMDb page for a remake you had no involvement with.