SECOND VERSE, CONTINUES THE FIRST
Main Cast: Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson
Director: James Wan
I don’t know if anyone loved the first Insidious as much as I did, and appreciated what it did for horror at that time. Someone finally had made a horror movie that didn’t rely on gore or jump scares, that was genuinely, honestly scary, and then when I heard a sequel was coming! Forgeddabout it.
My only concern was that it might not live up to how good the first one was. And, I’ll be honest, when I left the theater that day, I wasn’t overwhelmed with shock and terror as I had hoped I would be. That being said, I still thought it was a great movie with some really excellent moments, courtesy, once again, of the team of James Wan and Leigh Whannell. Look, if it was up to me, give these guys ALL the horror. They clearly love the genre AND have the chops to do it right.
I’ve always thought Whannell was way underrated as a horror writer–he gave us Saw, for God’s sake, and say what you will about where the franchise went, it was a game changer when it hit theaters. And James Wan’s direction? The man is untouchable when it comes to horror.
Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring … those three alone are enough for me. Granted he has moved on to bigger things with Furious 7 and Aquaman but I’ll never give up hope of a return to horror (he is currently listed as the director on the upcoming King adaptation The Tommyknockers and I’m kinda really excited because that was never a favorite story of mine, but I can see Wan doing amazing things with it).
And then they did the best thing I could have hoped for in terms of an Insidious sequel: they continued the original story. My favorite sequels are always ones that pick up basically where the first movie ended and if you can get the original cast back too, even better. Wan and Whannell did both for Insidious: Chapter 2.
After an opening flashback scene with a young Josh, Lorraine, and Elise where Elise is trying to help protect Josh against the entity that’s been following him (detailed in the first movie), we quickly recap the events of the original movie, ending with the (spoiler alert) death of Lin Shay’s Elise character, then we see Rose Byrne’s Renai being interviewed by the police before being sent home.
The Lamberts are now staying with Lorraine (Barbara Hershey), Josh’s mother, while the police are working in their old house.
Josh (Patrick Wilson) insists everything is back to normal, but Renai, understandably, is still nervous and on edge. Lorraine, too, is a bit weirded out by some things she starts to see in her house, things that weren’t there before.
And Renai and Lorraine are right to be worried. It doesn’t take long to figure out Josh isn’t Josh and something has followed him back from The Further, where he traveled to save his son Dalton in the first movie.
Meanwhile, Tucker and Specs (Angus Sampson and Leigh Whannell respectively) are mourning the lost of Elise when Lorraine asks for their help. This leads them to Carl (Steve Coulter, “The Walking Dead”), an old acquaintance of Elise who is able to communicate with the dead. Through talking with Elise, they track down the origins of the Bride in Black (the mysterious ghostly figure that had been haunting Josh when he was younger) which will, hopefully, help them figure out a way to save Josh and the entire Lambert family.
Okay, so the movie doesn’t follow the same structure as the original, and I think that might be what put some people off. Because unfortunately Insidious: Chapter 2 is not as highly regarded in horror circles as the original, which I think is unfair. This movie is every bit the horror movie the first one was, it just offers a different type of scare. It’s a more refined scare as Wan becomes even more skilled in the genre after the phenomenal one-two punch of Insidious and The Conjuring.
His camera work is much more distinguished, giving this movie a definite visual language that sets it apart from your typical horror fare. John Leonetti returns as cinematographer, and his work, too, is somewhat advanced from the last movie, playing up the colors and shadows in a way he and David M. Brewer had only begun to explore in the first movie. And rounding out the team responsible for what made Insidious and Insidious: Chapter 2 work so well is returning composer Joseph Bishara, whose violins stab and shrill like no others in this business.
Excellent excellent work all around.
But back to what I believe makes people not appreciate this movie as much as the first one, even though it is an honest to God continuation of the story.
And that right there is where I think it loses some people. Because you can watch Insidious, then put in Insidious: Chapter 2 and continue on and you’re basically getting one LONG movie–over 3 hours. And I love horror like nothing else, I’ll be watching crappy horror movies on my deathbed, but I don’t believe ANY horror story can sustain over 3 hours of viewing in one sitting.
I think this is why the Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street movies are so much easier to marathon. Same killer, and they basically both tell one long story, but that story is broken up into very distinguishable parts from movie to movie, complete with different casts and crew. When you watch all the Fridays in a row, you get that break, that reset of tension from the first to the second to the third. Same with the Elm Streets. But you watch these movies back to back and it’s one incredibly long, albeit well-made story. And even if you don’t watch one after the other, if you have seen the original Insidious, as soon as the sequel gets moving, you can see you’re right back where you left off and immediately, that level of tension you felt at the end of the first returns in full force.
It’s a great move and I wish more sequels did it, but holy crap, in a story this tense, with this much suspense when you feel like you know and care for the Lambert family–and who wouldn’t!–it can be exhausting.
But that’s just MY opinion on why more people might not have appreciated this movie as much as I did. Personally, I think it’s excellent. As an Act 2, maybe not AS GREAT as the first, but still super effective and cuh-REEPY.
C. Dennis Moore is the author of over 60 published short stories and novellas in the speculative fiction genre. Most recent appearances were in the Dark Highlands 2, What Fears Become, Dead Bait 3 and Dark Highways anthologies. His novels are Revelations, and the Angel Hill stories, The Man in the Window, The Third Floor, The Ghosts of Mertland and The Flip. He is writing another Angel Hill novel called Return to Angel Hill with co-author David Bain.