Wan and Whannell are also the masterminds behind the Saw franchise, and strangely enough, although completely different genres of horror apart, the two series share an awful lot in common. You can tell that Insidious: Chapter 2 is from the brains of the torture-porn team.
It is essential that you have seen the first film before you watch the second and if you don’t have the luxury of viewing it as a double-header like I did, then I suggest that you familiarise yourself with its beginnings. The film picks up the day after the first one ended with Rose Byrne’s Renai questioned by the police about the murder of Elise by Patrick Wilson’s Josh. At the end of the first film we see Josh being possessed by an old woman in a black dress, with this leading to Josh strangling Elise to death. Some extremely dubious forensic work follows, allowing Josh to be let off. He then proceeds to terrorise his family, as who he is actually possessed by, and why, is convolutedly unravelled by the other characters.
Now the comparisons to the Saw films begin with the first scene of the film immediately revealing some back-story of how Josh was originally possessed as a child by this woman, as a precursor to the events of the first film. What then follows is 100 minutes where pretty much anything can happen. Any plot-hole or slightly arbitrarily unexplained event that occurs in the first film, things that we don’t even give a second thought to, is answered in the sequel, a la. Saw. If a door opens in the first film, then we discover why in the second. This style has Saw written all over it with its meticulous multi-layered story, backgrounds and foreshadowing. The film is predominantly a sequel, but there are also prequel elements and certain aspects as mentioned above that also make it a mid-quel as well.
Arguably the worst part of the first film was the last 20 minutes where Josh goes into The Further to look for his son, Dalton, and unfortunately a large portion of this film is also set there, because it is here that the “real” Josh is trapped. The Further does seem to be a place where all bets are off and time doesn’t seem to run linearly. As such, he is able to go back to parts of the first film and influence them, which although very cool, isn’t really necessary, and here I was reminded of certain aspects of the film The Butterfly Effect. The segment where they visit an abandoned hospital also had similarities to Session 9, and of course the shaky POV camera work is also indicative of the Paranormal Activity franchise.
Byrne’s brief seems to have just been to be weepy mess throughout, and there are only so many times that she can look upset or shocked before it grates. Wilson though appears to revel in the dual characters that he has been given. Unfortunately, Whannell and Angus Sampson as the bumbling investigators have been given a much larger role and bring the film some unneeded comedic relief.
Chapter 2 really has to been seen to be believed. There are bits that I loved and other parts that made me hang my head. Although sharing a name and story, they really are two very different films. The first one is an eerie psychological horror, and the second one is basically a sci-fi film. The vast diversity in the two films will cause fans to be torn between them.
Hopefully there won’t be any more Insidious movies as two nicely tied up the apparent inconsistencies in the former, however they do appear to leave it open for another film if it does well. But given that Wan is curiously directing the new Fast & Furious movie, thankfully it’s not being considered just yet. They need to stop it now before it turns into Paranormal Activity, needless to say which has its fifth outing coming out next month.