For numerous reasons, I never got around to seeing Insidious, the well-received 2011 haunted house/possession scare fest directed by James Wan. I’m glad I didn’t make the same mistake with the follow-up, Insidious: Chapter 2, the most enjoyable thriller I’ve seen in years and one of the easiest recommendations for fans of the genre I’ll make all year.
Wan isn’t revolutionizing anything here — in a lot of ways the film feels like a reverent homage to thrillers from long ago that relied less on gore and more on keeping the audience freaked out. This throwback thriller style is invitingly familiar, yet fresh enough to remain unpredictable.
Screenwriter Leigh Whannell makes the film easily accessible to newcomers so don’t worry if you missed the first one as you’ll quickly catch up to all the relevant plot points.
After rescuing their son, Dalton (Ty Simpkins, Iron Man 3) from the clutches of an evil spirit realm, Carl (Patrick Wilson, The Conjuring) and Renai (Rose Byrne, 28 Weeks Later) Lambert hope to get their lives back to normal.
Not long after moving in with Carl’s mother, Lorraine (Barbara Hershey), the Lambert family starts experiencing more bizarre happenings and encounter some decidedly unpleasant spirits.
These bizarre events date back to the Lambert family’s very first encounter with the paranoia. To stave off these evil spirits they’ll have to call on the aid of their old allies Specs (Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson). I’d say more, but it would spoil plot points best left enjoyed than told.
Whannell puts together a script that’s creepy, funny at all the intentionally funny points and neatly ties the entire story together.
And Wan definitely delivers on his end. The film isn’t particularly scary to the point you’ll need a nightlight to get to sleep, but it is effectively unnerving.
Wan does a phenomenal job of building that tension that will have you wondering what’s around the corner, the other side of the door and under the bed in the overly spacious home.
More importantly, he pays off enough of the teases with enough seat-jumping moments to keep viewers on edge throughout. Wan makes it almost a comedy thriller as you’re aware of how he’s toying with your emotions yet gleefully going along for the ride.
As a rule, you don’t tend to expect any worthwhile acting in thrillers since all that’s required is actors who can scream and shriek on cue, but the performances are better than you may expect with Wilson exceptional in a multifaceted role. Byrne is able to make Renai vulnerable without being a victim and Whannell and Sampson providing welcome realistic thriller comic relief.
It’s been too long since we’ve had a thriller that was this much fun and satisfying once the end credits arrive. While he claims this is his last foray into the genre, Wan leaves the ending open enough to return if he and Whannell are so inclined for a third chapter. If not, Wan’s certainly leaving on a high note and I can’t wait to see what he’s got in store next with Fast & Furious 7.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Photo Credit: Matt Kennedy/Film District