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Venture back into the Further with Insidious Chapter 2

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Venture back into the realms of the Further with the next installment of the Insidious franchise.

With Dalton awake again, the Lambert family wants nothing more than to get back to a normal routine and to begin healing in the wake of recent events.  The police have questions for Renai about her husband’s role in the death of Elise, the medium who expired during a ritual in the Lambert home only days before.  Living temporarily with Josh’s mom, Lorraine, it’s clear the Lamberts are struggling to find their footing when things, once more, begin going bump in the night.  Terrorized by what she saw that night, Renai doesn’t recognize the man who calls himself her husband and finds herself unraveling.

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Starring Patrick Wilson as Josh Lambert, Rose Byrne as Renai Lambert, Ty Simpkins as Dalton Lambert, Barbara Hershey as Lorraine Lambert, Lin Shaye as Elise Rainier, Leigh Whannell as Specs, Angus Sampson as Tucker, and Tom Fitzpatrick as the Bride in BlackInsidious Chapter 2 is the 2013 supernatural horror film directed by James Wan and written by Leigh Whannell.

Although much of the film is set immediately following the events of InsidiousChapter 2 attempts to fill in some of the backstory of Josh Lambert by jumping (only momentarily) back in time to 1986 when – on one fateful night – Elise Rainier first meets the Lambert family.

The 1986 sequence is a little unnerving, but not because of the storyline or the unfolding events.  The filmmakers overdub the voice of actress Lin Shaye to the performance of Lindsay Seim who is acting as 1986 Elise.  While Seim’s performance is a fair match to the voiceover work of Shaye, I’m not sure the physical embodiment is quite right.  I appreciate the effort, the concept, and the risk, but my disbelief was immediately thrown over.

Add to this the incredible bite chewed off by screenwriter Leigh Whannel – I mean, whoa.  There is very little left unanswered from the original film – maybe that’s a blessing for some of you and for others, maybe it will prove a little deflating.  For me, it was a slightly depressing mixture of both.

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The expectations behind the film are inarguably staggering, especially with James Wan coming off his Summer hit, The Conjuring.  But with the film’s composition – one part psychological family drama, one part murder mystery, and the rest a mish-mash of supernatural spiritualism - Insidious Chapter 2 ends up being a largely narrative horror film that probably tries to do too much in it’s scant 105 minute run time.

The success of the film really lies in its ability to carry out a reasonable follow-up to a largely popular first film – a task that is almost always easier assumed than executed.

Seeking to expand on the events of the first film while filling in some of its blanks, Insidious Chapter 2 is constructing a storyline that may turn into an epic movie going experience.  With the filmmakers’ ability to turn small(er) budget films into box office gold, is there any doubt that Insidious may become the next massively-multi-feature-film franchise?

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While Whannell is smart enough to give his main characters larger, more robust story arcs to play out, the real question is whether or not Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne would elect to return for another installment.

Byrne’s character Renai figures less largely in the story’s plot line this time around, and enjoys less development.  It’s really Wilson who, as a vessel to the Bride in Black, manages to further the overall narrative of Insidious.  Wilson is adept and enjoyable to watch as his character begins falling apart before our eyes.

For me, the real joy comes in seeing the return of Lin Shaye as Elise in the Further.  The return of the character is fleeting, but gives the audience a satisfying sense of closure and … perhaps … sets the tone for a new beginning?

And it’s true – the red-faced demon (played in the first film by score composer Joseph Bishara) fails to make a physical return, but I wouldn’t bet against his role in the next installment.DSKS-305

While Insidious Chapter 2 is not a fast paced horror film, there are plenty of James Wan’s signature chills to be had throughout.  Comparisons to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, I think, are a little too obvious, a little too lazy to be restated here.

James Wan has well established himself in the horror genre, and I believe he is a master at setting tone and creating atmosphere with very little.  The ventures into the Further are among my favorite moments in horror cinema.  After all, is there anything more terrifying than the idea of being thrown into an infinite, black abyss where time and space are meaningless?  Genius, simple, and effective in the extreme.

Performances by Whannell and Sampson (Specs and Tucker) garner laughter throughout the film, helping to lighten the mood and provide breaks in the building tension.

If you’re sensitive to fluid, hand held camera movement, you may find yourself a bit taxed by the cinematography.

All in all, Insidious Chapter 2 is worth the ticket price if for no other reason than to see how everything fits together.  But, make no mistake, this is not a stand alone film but a bridge.  Be sure you want to cross it.

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Why a PG-13 Rating Spelled Success for Insidious

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Haunted houses.  Demon possession.  Seances.  The Further.  Astral Projection.  For the Lambert family, any hope of having a normal life gradually fades after their young son Dalton falls into a non-waking state.  As they struggle to make sense of what’s happening to their son, Renai and Josh are overcome with a feeling of never being alone.  Not quite.  Renai is tormented by noises and visions of things that aren’t there.  The events escalate until the family decides to move in hopes of getting away from whatever seeks to torment them.  But, once installed in their new home, things only become worse.  When Josh’s mother suggests they call in an expert, the Lamberts aren’t nearly prepared to learn the truth about what’s happening to their family.

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Starring Patrick Wilson as Josh Lambert, Rose Byrne as Renai Lambert, Ty Simpkins as Dalton Lambert, Barbara Hershey as Lorraine Lambert, Lin Shaye as Elise Rainier, Leigh Whannell as Specs, and Angus Sampson as Tucker, Insidious is the 2011 supernatural horror film directed by James Wan and written by Leigh Whannell – the team that brought us Saw.

I am a big fan of James Wan and of screenwriter Leigh Whannell.  The duo have a consistency about them that borders on the unreal.  What’s more, even though their work feels familiar, it almost never feels obvious or predictable.  I’m also a fan of the concept of astral projection.  Perhaps dismissed as too “new age”, or misunderstood altogether, the subject of astral projection has been much underused in film.  I’m happy to say that Insidious makes fun and creative use of the concept.  I’m also a fan of Patrick Wilson (The ConjuringLittle ChildrenAngels in America) whose resume boasts some complicated, nuanced performances that I’ve enjoyed watching time and again.

There.  With my biases set out, let’s talk.

Insidious is a rarity.  Made for about $1.5M and rated PG-13, Insidious was able to do something other films in the genre often only dream of – turn a relatively respectable profit: $90+M.  By capitalizing on a larger audience (and being widely entertaining) this modest horror film cashed in and it did so with very little violence and next to no bloodshed.  Does the PG-13 rating and lack of violence/gore mean it isn’t a “real” horror film?

Hell-to-the-no.

The horror factor of Insidious is, by necessity, internal – the fear of a parent that their child will be injured, the fear of a child of being alone, the fear of what lies in the darkness beyond our senses.  James Wan does a masterful job of using gothic-style scares to sculpt an atmospheric and spine-tingling film.

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Sure, there are moments that may feel a bit stagey, even Disneyland-ish, but remember you’re not watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, here.  This film also is meant to be enjoyed by a younger set.  A set filled with, perhaps, fewer biases and jaded sensibilities as yourself.  As a result, the film becomes a slightly lopsided experience – with the beginning half of the film building an almost impossible tension that may not really be satisfactorily resolved by the film’s (too literal?) ending.

There is a stillness to Insidious that, in direct contrast to many other pieces in the genre, builds much of the film’s tension and ambiance.  For those with a fear of being watched, Insidious knows where you live and breathe.  Others, who love to be shocked and awed, may be disappointed.

Insidious is a moderately (re)watchable film.  The same cannot be said for every entry into the horror film genre.  Many want to disgust you, shock you, disturb you to the point of making you look away from the screen.  What’s the point of that?  You’re there to see the movie, not look at the palms of your hands.  Sure, it’s great fun to be *that* unnerved in a safe environment, but it doesn’t do much in the way of telling a story.  It disengages the audience and results in the loss of their suspension of disbelief.

The true power of a horror film lies in its ability to draw its audience in, and keep them there – no matter how uncomfortable they may feel – to face those things that wait just beyond the darkness.

Would you let your kids watch it?  That’s a discussion for another writer on another blog – I’m not here to tell you if Insidious is “appropriate”, I’m not Big Sister.  I will say that, if pressed, it’s not exactly easy to come up with a moral bottom line to the film.  Is it to be always mindful of your actions?  Is it to respect all things, especially those for which our understanding is lax?  You be the judge.

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And yes, some of the film may invoke laughter on your part.  It’s okay to laugh while you’re watching a horror film.  Who said it isn’t?  I know that the depiction of the demon lurking over Dalton’s empty body has garnered a lot of attention - some enthusiasticsome laughably negative - and I don’t know if it will reappear in the upcoming sequel to the film.  I do know this.  The red-faced demon is portrayed by Joseph Bishara, the film’s score composer, and I’m sure he’ll be long remembered by an entire generation – even if they’re laughing a bit.

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