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The Independent Critic

Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, Angus Sampson, Andrew Astor, Lin Shaye
James Wan
James Wann, Leigh Wannell
Rated PG-13
105 Mins.

 "Insidious 2" is Too Intentional 
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An unintentionally funny sequel to Insidious that picks up exactly where that low-budget hit left off, Insidious 2 picks up with the Lambert family fighting off evil spirits while dad Josh (Patrick Wilson) and son also are trying to figure out how to deal with their ability to astral project into a spirit world known as the Further. Anyone with half a brain realizes that Josh is more than likely vulnerable to not actually coming back from the Further alone, a fact that comes into play when Josh, wife Renai (Rose Byrne) and the rest of the family pick up their things and leave their haunted house following the mysterious death of the psychic named Elise (Lin Shaye). They head off to grandma's house (Barbara Hershey) but, of course, there's more than a little bit of a chance that they won't be the only ones arriving. 

While Renai has suspected that Josh might not be himself, it takes her an awful long time to finally reach that conclusion despite Josh's abrupt changes and increasingly bizarre behavior. 

The most disappointing thing about Insidious 2, a rare miss from the usually reliable co-writer/director James Wan, is that it comes fresh on the heels of Wan's eerily similar and far more successful The Conjuring. This sequel never really feels necessary, though to his credit Wan also keeps it from for the most part feeling like an outright money grab. To his credit as well, Wan continues his move away from his torture porn days and continues to be one of the most dependable filmmakers working at creating involving and intelligent old school horror. Insidious 2 is PG-13 rated not because it's not scary, but because Wan doesn't have to resort to the gimmicks, special effects, and exploitation so common in contemporary horror whether it's from Hollywood or the indie world. 

Screenwriter Leigh Wannell works overtime trying to make up for the fact that a good amount of what made the first film anxiety-inducing and chilling is familiar information now, but the addition of some back story and some artificially created conflict isn't nearly enough to compensate for the lost suspense. While Wan, his cast and his crew are all fully invested here there's simply no way that Insidious 2 can measure up to its predecessor. 

Despite the risk of going way over the top with his transformation, the dependable Patrick Wilson manages to be uncomfortably impressive as the possessed father. Rose Byrne is left with a bit too slight of a character to really make a strong impression, though Barbara Hershey does a nice job as Grandma Lambert. 

Wan also proves to be one of the most resourceful filmmakers when it comes to maximizing production quality on a modest budget. Joseph Bishara's original score has a heavy, menacing quality about it while Jennifer Spence's simple yet inventive production design manages to create a frightening aura without all the usual special effects. It should be noted that Wan avoids the use of special effects for his demons, giving the film a wonderfully retro feeling and an otherworldly humanity that works nicely as they are brought vividly and memorably to life. 

Insidious 2 seems like it's one of those films that Wan made more for the studio than for himself. While he certainly shows up and gives it his best shot, the film lacks his usual spark and focus. For those in need of a good old-fashioned horror fix this opening weekend, Insidious 2 may very well be just scary enough to make it worth your while but when it comes to Wan we've come to expect films that linger in your psyche' long after we've left the theater. 

Insidious 2 is more likely to simply have you checking the calendar for the far more promising The Conjuring 2. 

© Written by Richard Propes 
The Independent Critic