MRR Review: "Insidious: Chapter 2"

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The haunted Lambert family seeks to uncover the mysterious childhood secret that has left them dangerously connected to the spirit world.
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MRR Review: "Insidious: Chapter 2"

Rating: PG-13 (intense sequences of terror and violence, and thematic elements)
Length: 105 minutes
Release Date: Sept. 13, 2013
Directed by: James Wan
Genre: Horror/Thriller

In the first "Insidious," Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) risked life and limb to try and rescue his comatose son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) from an alternate realm known as the Further. This realm is haunted by demons who wreaked havoc on the family and their home, leaving behind a slew of unanswered questions about why this family and Dalton in particular were targeted for all this demonic mayhem. "Insidious: Chapter 2" picks up not long after these frightening events, with Josh and his wife Renai (Rose Byrne) picking up their children and moving in with Josh's mom Lorraine (Barbara Hershey).

Unfortunately, the evil spirits follow the Lambert family to Lorraine's house, leaving Renai to question whether one or more demons followed Josh out of the Further when he last went there to rescue Dalton. In fact, Renai is almost convinced that Josh is either possessed or about to be possessed because of all the unexplained things happening around the house; a baby monitor begins picking up static, then scary voices that don't belong to anyone living in the house. Strange thuds, creaks, and slammed doors begin to set everyone on edge, which leads to the family calling on paranormal investigators Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) to once again try and figure out what is going on.

As the investigation begins to go deeper into the past, the audience begins to understand why Josh and Dalton can use astral projection to go to the Further, whereas the rest of the family cannot. Lorraine is once again the source of information that helps to explain why the demons are targeting the Lambert family, leading the audience to wonder what else she might be hiding. At its core, "Insidious: Chapter 2" is a horror film that aims to scare while also serving as an explanation of sorts for the events of the first film. Though the overarching story does move forward, the film spends quite a bit of time in the past as well, making a second viewing of the first "Insidious" a must.

Director James Wan has really begun to come into his own as a horror film director. He showed great promise with his first big international feature, the original "Saw" in 2004. One of the most notable things about "Saw" was that the tension was extraordinarily high, which only helped enhance all the film's other aspects. Similarly, "Insidious" and "Insidious: Chapter 2" have several extraordinarily tense scenes that help to enhance the films' overall scariness. The tension in this latest offering intensifies the film's very dark mood, especially in the scenes set in the alternate plane. The Further is exactly as moody and scary as viewers would probably imagine a demon-filled realm to be, which makes the jump-worthy scares in the film all the more effective.

With a movie as tense as this, it is not a bad idea to have a little bit of comic relief here and there. That relief is provided by returning characters Specs and Tucker. They provided the few laughs in the first installment, and they continue that trend in this film with their banter and reactions to the scary occurrences in the house. There are a few scenes where their jokes fall a bit flat, but for the most part, they bring some welcome levity to the proceedings, helping the audience cope with the intensity of the film. It's a nice balance that some horror films are missing. That balance may be the result of the fact Specs is played by Whannell, who penned the script for "Insidious" and this film as well.

Whannell, like Wan, has also come into his own, only as a writer instead of a director. He writes mostly horror films and has quietly begun to master the art of scaring the audience with his scripts. He and Wan have worked together on several films, including several in the "Saw" franchise and now the "Insidious" films, which may also become a long-running franchise in the same vein as the former. The door is certainly left open for a possible third installment, and with a concept like the Further, the budding franchise could continue even without the Lamberts. Lots of terrifying stories could still be told, though Whannell and Wan's possible involvement is still a big question mark. If the producing studio behind "Insidious: Chapter 2" is smart, they will lock these two into long-term contracts because they are showing flashes of horror genre brilliance that will likely only get better over time.

Rating: 3 out of 5