‘Insidious: Chapter 2’ expands plot, provides intense scares

Previous cast members return in “Insidious: Chapter 2” and develop their characters and storytelling.  (Photo provided by theguardian.com)
Previous cast members return in “Insidious: Chapter 2” and develop their characters and storytelling. (Photo provided by theguardian.com)

“Insidious: Chapter 2” opens immediately after the events of the first film. The day after confronting the spirit troubling their family, Josh (Patrick Wilson, “The Conjuring”) and Renai Lambert (Rose Byrne, “The Internship”) tries to put the events behind them. They move into Josh’s mother Lorraine’s (Barbara Hershey, TV’s “Once Upon a Time”) house with their kids because the police are investigating their house. It is not long before Lorraine and Renai start having supernatural experiences again. Josh refuses to acknowledge these events, in hopes that his family can move on. As things get worse Lorraine approaches her friend Carl (Steve Coulter, “The Conjuring”), a spiritualist, for help. The truth of what has been terrorizing the family comes out as the plot unfolds. This forces Josh, with Carl’s help, to travel through the spirit world to face his past and conquer his demons.

The film builds on its predecessor perfectly. There are numerous call-backs to the original for fans to enjoy, that do not alienate new audiences. Several things that were left unanswered or unexplained are addressed. Every character from the original returns, and the few additions to the cast do not feel out of place. The plot may be a bit confusing for newcomers at first, but by the end all elements are explained, leaving the film strong as a standalone in the series. There are some confusing elements regarding the rules of the spirit world, and toward the end there are a few plot holes, but, these are small inconsistencies that most viewers will not pick up on.

This sequel does diverge somewhat from the first film. Returning fans will not be disappointed by the new developments, however, as the changes fit in the context of the series and make for a stronger plot. The family dynamic is explored further than it was in the first and is handled well. The use of new locations, including a condemned hospital, Lorraine’s house where Josh grew up and a séance room add variety. These locations allow for intense visuals that would not be possible in the original house. A difference from the original that can be distracting is the new reliance on flashbacks. These scenes are often given little build-up and can be jarring. Despite this, they work to strengthen the film by giving important plot details and do not feel out of place, as they serve a purpose by the end.

This film stands out among other horror films of recent years. Building off the prior film, it steps up the scares quickly. There are no “jump scares” to ruin the mood and each scene has a payoff. The film gives hints to what is happening before revealing everything at the end, but does not rely on periods of long exposition. The movie takes an effective show-don’t-tell approach that encourages the audience to make guesses about the truth before the reveal. The serious atmosphere is broken up by moments of comic relief that provide respite, but are thankfully brief enough to not completely ruin the mood. The acting is superb as well. No character feels out of place and the film uses each to its advantage.

“Insidious: Chapter 2” is a fresh take on the haunting genre. Expanding on unique concepts such as a spirit world and astral projection, this sequel follows up on them to their full potential. Viewers can expect a smartly-crafted horror film that provides well-developed characters, real scares and excellent story.