People used to say that Darth Sidious was really short for insidious (and Vader was short for invader). Then, Insidious comes out and there's that Darth Maul looking dude in it (but not short for mauler, or imaul, or whatever), and I was like, "Hey, what's up with that?"
I have to give credit to James Wan and Leigh Whannell Insidious: Chapter 2 is a genuine sequel to Insidious, and doesn't feel like a cheap sequel made to cash in. Chapter 2 absolutely requires that you've seen the first. In fact, I wouldn't even recommend seeing it unless you have it fresh in your mind. Chapter 2 does a good job of expanding on the story, and it loops back on events of the first in pretty clever ways that I enjoyed.
Unfortunately, Chapter 2 misses the mark as far as actual scares. The first was a lesson in effective use of sound and atmosphere, while the second relies a bit too much on loud noises and cheap jump scares. Even when they displayed the title they did it with an ear splitting noise that was actually a little painful to listen to.
It's kind of odd to me in that I liked Chapter 2 for the opposite reasons I liked the first. When watching Insidious, I was really into the film until it switched gears and they went to the astral-plane where Darth Maul's brother hung out. With Chapter 2, I enjoyed the film more in the second half when they went back to the astral-plane, and you got the expansion of the story and callbacks to the first.
So what's it about anyway? After a brief prologue where we learn that Josh was able to astral project as a child and was hypnotized to forget this, Chapter 2 picks up immediately after the events of the first. Despite recovering their son from the astral plane, Renai (Rose Byrne) is still hearing and witnessing strange events around the house. Josh (Patrick Wilson), who's already under suspicion for the death of Elise (Lin Shaye), is exhibiting bizarre behavior of his own. It becomes clear that Josh is no longer himself and something came back with him from the astral plane. Josh's mother, Lorraine (Barbara Hershey), contacts Elise's old team, as well as the man that hypnotized Josh as a kid, to investigate. As they discover more, Josh's behavior becomes more erratic and things escalate.
As I eluded to earlier, part of my disappointment in the film is that there was a too much reliance on generic, horror/thriller cliches. At one point an abandoned hospital is searched...at night. Why can't they search this during the day when there's more ambient light? Why do they never bring more flashlights? I was also disappointed in the lack of an effective villain or imagery. While I thought the Darth Maul guy from the first was a little silly by the end of the film, at least he was scary looking. Chapter 2 has a bunch of people in sheets and a totally not-scary woman dressed in white. This woman in white turned out to be an overbearing mother that was forcing her son to dress as a girl. Why? I have no idea! Why are these two the focus? Who is Josh possessed by and why? I don't feel like we got good answers to any of these questions. Instead of being scary, it just came off as weird.
Since there's no tension due to lack of scares, I felt the pace of the film really dragged, as well. An hour and 45 minutes seems long considering how underdeveloped the story was.
I didn't hate the film though. I do appreciate that they are making these films on a tiny budget and not relying on CG or excessive gore. They even managed to get a few laughs this time around, although some of them may have been unintentional. The performances were also above average for the genre. However, I thought the normally rock-solid Patrick Wilson was a little too over-the-top at times.
Insidious: Chapter 2 does a good job of expanding on the story set up by the first, but it unfortunately doesn't have the scares to match. If you were a fan of Insidious, then I think Chapter 2 is still worth a watch to see how they built on the story, but overall it's a bit of a step down. I'd recommend saving it for rental and watching Chapter 1 and 2 back-to-back.
2 (out of 5) Death Stars