PG-13 (intense sequences of terror and violence, and thematic elements); 105 min.
More silly than its sinister predecessor, Insidious: Chapter 2 is entertaining for the contortions the script makes to incorporate both a brief prequel and highlights from the first film into a new 105-minute package.
Saw/Insidious guys James Wan (director) and Leigh Whannell (co-writer, co-star) throw their pretty good cast Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne and Barbara Hershey into a follow-up to the Poltergeist-ish tale of the gutsy, long-haunted dad, Josh (Wilson), who goes to the other side to fetch his kidnapped boy (Ty Simpkins) from the demonic spirit that snatched him. And if the result isnt nearly as hair-raising as the first film, at least theyve set the table for more sequels and spinoffs.
A 10-minute prologue tells us how younger Josh was first visited by a spirit, and first treated by ghost buster Elise (Lindsay Seim as a younger version of Lin Shayes character). Back in the present, adult Josh and wife Renai (Byrne) have fled to Grandmas house after the harrowing events of Insidious, which ended with Elise dead.
Renai doesnt know for sure that Josh didnt kill the medium, and neither do the cops. It doesnt help that Josh has a faintly demonic bent to his denials about the spooky apparitions, a piano that plays by itself, etc.
You have to relax, he purrs. Ignore them and they will go away.
Of course, they dont. Thats when granny Lorraine (Hershey) summons Elises old partner (Steve Coulter), along with her younger ghost hunters, Specs (Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson).
Then the joking begins. In white shirts and black ties, the ghost hunters have everything but the sunglasses and sport coats of the Men in Black. Theyre credulous when all around them are incredulous.
Thats the sly comfort in this feel-good horror franchise. Out there, in the Yellow Pages, there are experts who can help you deal with the supernatural. And even after death, a good ghost hunter is still on the clock.
The techno-props ranging from baby monitors (been there, heard that) to old found video, to tin-can telephones convey the ghostly voices from beyond. The Ouija board substitute here is a Boggle bag of letter dice that pass on messages from the dead.
The beastly things we see are nothing you wouldnt recognize from Mommie Dearest.
And everybody keeps a straight face.
Chapter 2 isnt as clever as the screenwriters seem to think, and the movie isnt remotely as scary as the film it is following. But thats not to say that it isnt entertaining, on some level, even if you can tell the name actors are waiting for the checks to clear, ready to hand off this franchise to lesser lights, and the sooner the better. --Roger Moore, McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers