Mark’s Movies: Insidious — Chapter Two

By on September 15, 2013
Insidious Chapter Two

There’s an old adage, when it comes to art, which says if you’re going to steal, steal from the best. Boy, does writer/director James Wan ever get that saying. This year’s horror smash The Conjuring was a veritable greatest hits of horror, and the original Insidious played like a modern variation of The Haunting and Poltergeist in particular. With Insidious: Chapter Two, Wan aims even higher, looking for inspiration in the masters, people like Alfred Hitchcock- in particular, Psycho- and Stanley Kubrick, by way of The Shining.

Lofty goals, to be sure, but Wan does his inspirations justice, even if he doesn’t quite surpass them. Then again, who could, really? Better to approximate greatness at the very least, and Wan does that just fine in this engaging and satisfying follow-up to the original Insidious. Picking up more or less where we left off, with the death of a major character at the end of the last installment, at least after a quick diversion into the past, this one really does tie up all the loose ends in a genuinely clever way that makes you think they absolutely must have planned it this way from the jump.

If they didn’t, then it’s all the more impressive an achievement. Insidious: Chapter Two manages to propel the story forward by looking back, then forward, then doubling back into itself in a way that you can’t help but be wowed by. You definitely want to re-watch the original before seeing this, if only to truly appreciate how much thought went into this sequel, which earns that “Chapter” moniker by truly tying everything together in a way that makes perfect sense within the confines of the story being told, as well as the one already established, without remotely feeling like a cheat.

Most sequels are content to rehash; this one expands and complicates things in a really cool way that will leave you saying they had to have planned this thing out this way or it wouldn’t have worked nearly as well as it does. Given a lot of the crap that passes for horror these days, it’s nice to see someone actually put some thought into things for a change. This isn’t just a quick cash grab, and that’s a pretty cool thing in and of itself, because it would have been really easy to have done just that, least of all with this film being Wan’s second within the space of a single year, an impressive achievement as well, especially since both films are of such high caliber.

I don’t know that I have a single complaint about either this or The Conjuring and that’s kind of remarkable. Of course, it does sort of beg the question: what if they keep going? After all, that’s precisely what got the Saw franchise in trouble (which Wan also started, but didn’t ultimately finish, leaving the dirty work to lesser talents), not to mention his Insidious-producer Oren Peli, whose own Paranormal Activity franchise officially went off the rails with the last installment.

I think The Conjuring is the best bet to keep going by far. After all, there were all those super-creepy items in the Warrens’ collection. Any one of those items could provide a launching point for another satisfying movie, I’ve no doubt, and the Warrens are certainly compelling enough characters to sustain any number of films in an ongoing series.

My only complaint about Insidious: Chapter Two is that it clearly ends in such a way as to set up another film in the series, and yet, it also draws the main storyline of the first film to such a satisfying close that you kind of wish it ended right where it does, and maybe labeled the sequel something else altogether, like Insidious: The Next Case or something, since that’s kind of what the ending implies anyway. I guess we’ll find out whenever the next installment comes out- and you just know it will.

In the meantime, I can’t imagine anyone who liked the first one not liking this just fine, despite the clear intention to keep things going for another one. I mean, that’s sort of to be expected, right? You can close the door, but you never, ever, lock it, right? That’s not how they do things in Hollywood, and least of all in horror. (Looking at you, Friday the 13th, Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street, among others…)

So, if you’re in the mood for a solid scare-fest with a respectable cast, and some novel twists, you’ve come to the right place. Insidious: Chapter Two is more of the same, but in a slightly different way than the first that keeps it from being a rehash, in that the influences here are different than in the first one. The story’s more elaborate, the spooky locations are more plentiful (we also get to see Elise’s digs, a freaky hospital, and another house of horrors that is mighty twisted, plot-wise), and the resolution is satisfying. What more do you want, really, in a sequel?

I give it a well-earned A+, and hope against hope that Wan can somehow manage to keep up the good work, and continue to steal from the best in just-as-impressive ways in the future.

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About Mark Trammell

Mark Trammell is the resident entertainment critic at UAB, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is also a Graduate Student and does a vid-cast movie review show. He is a life-long fan of films and has a pretty whacked-out, all-over-the-place movie collection that would give most sane people pause. He loves horror movies and Disney flicks and isn't entirely sure there is a difference. He one day hopes to put his money where his mouth is and inflict his own perverse vision on society, entirely so that he can tell people who ask: "If you think you can do better, why don't you make a movie yourself?" to shut up.
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