Many movie studios decided to take a break for Christmas week, as only one major theatrical release is making it’s way to home video.
Insidious: Chapter 2
3 stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of terror and violence, and thematic elements
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand
Writer-director James Wan may have made his name with the ultra-gory “Saw” franchise, but he is just as comfortable with old-fashioned suspense. In fact, it seems that Wan now favors movies that are built on slow-burning psychological horror.
Wan’s first film of 2013, “The Conjuring,” was the best horror movie of the year. His second, “Insidious: Chapter 2,” is less striking, but still intense and entertaining. Because the movie is a sequel to the first “Insidious,” it spends a good deal of time addressing the events of the earlier movie. While this won’t be a serious problem for those who loved the original, it does reduce the film’s element of surprise.
The plot picks up after the events in “Insidious,” with the Lambert family attempting to recover from the supernatural events that turned their lives upside down. Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) is back from the Further, an alternate dimension containing the tortured souls of the dead. Josh’s actions in this terrifying place successfully revived his son, Dalton (Tye Simpkins), from a lengthy coma. His wife, Renai (Rose Byrne), is understandably relieved, but she is not convinced that everything is better.
Most of her concern stems from the fact that the medium that helped them, Elise Ranier (Lin Shaye), died mysteriously after Dalton and Josh returned. Renai’s worry becomes full-fledged panic when the family is again plagued by supernatural happenings that range from the appearance of apparitions to toys that move without warning. She also becomes convinced that something changed Josh while he was inside the Further. Terrified, Renai turns to Elise’s former assistants (Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson) and to Josh’s mother, Lorraine (Barbara Hershey).
“Insidious: Chapter 2” feels more familiar and mainstream than its predecessor, primarily because viewers are already familiar with the characters and situations presented on screen. This familiarity makes the movie somewhat predictable, but that doesn’t prevent Wan from delivering many solid scares.
The director uses a loud, theatrical score by Joseph Bishara to keep viewers on edge even when the on-screen action is mild. He also paces the film beautifully, knowing just when to deliver a terrifying moment. “Chapter 2” is also noteworthy because it fleshes out and expands on some of the events from “Insidious,” giving viewers a deeper understanding of the history behind the supernatural events. While this isn’t a necessary element of a scary movie, it adds interest.
Wan’s movie is also better than many works in the horror genre because of its cast. Once upon a time, horror films were the domain of B-level stars, but the genre is attracting increasingly strong players. They, in turn, are making the genre more palatable and artistically appealing.
Wilson, Byrne and Hershey are fantastic, and they instill their characters with the sort of humanity and depth that allows moviegoers to cringe whenever their characters face danger. Danielle Bisutti is also strong as the film’s chief bad guy.
The first “Insidious” was an inventive and refreshingly terrifying horror film. “Chapter 2” isn’t as novel, but it’s plenty creepy.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include two featurettes on the making of the film.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”: This drama, starring Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara and Ben Foster, became available Dec. 17. It features Affleck and Mara as an outlaw couple who attempt to reunite when one of them escapes from jail. Written and directed by David Lowery.
“More Than Honey”: Nature documentary focused on the important role that bees play in our world. The film also considers the things that may be pushing them toward extinction. Directed by Markus Imhoof. Narrated by John Hurt.
“Una Noche”: Story of a young Cuban man who, along with friends, plots a daring escape to Miami after he is accused of a serious crime. Dariel Arrechaga, Javier Núñez Florián and Anailín de la Rúa de la Torre star. Written and directed by Lucy Mulloy. Presented in Spanish with English subtitles.
“Caesar Must Die”: Documentary drama focused on a group of Italian prisoners who stage a public performance of the William Shakespeare play “Julius Caesar.” Directed by brothers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani. Presented in Italian with English subtitles.
– Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. E-mail him at email@example.com.