The only thing people really want to know about the sequel to James Wan's Insidious is whether it's as scary as the first movie. Insidious brought the scary, brought the horror and didn't give a shit about being cheesy, wacky and just a little bit insane. While Insidious 2 is made in the spirit of the first, it failed. And the worst part of it is, Insidious 2 COULD have been scary.
Mild spoilers ahead.
Insidious was scary. I was scared. Hell, I was VERY scared. I still can't watch this film alone in my apartment. Needless to say, I was pretty jazzed about seeing the sequel. But when the recreation of the original title scenes swapped out delicate scares and lightly-placed ghost fingerprints in a frozen home with fast-forward re-tread scares from the first movie and in-your-face BOOS, I knew we were in trouble.
Insidious 2 starts immediately after the first film. The astral-projecting, ghost-attracting family has returned from "the further" and the father is not himself. It was interesting to see Insidious 2 actually try and expand upon the real world that this horror movie created. It would have been super easy to reboot everything and put the ghost-hunting team of Specs and Tucker in Mexico for a whole new scare session. Instead, they try to fix the mess they unknowingly created in the last movie, and that's great. And that's about where the greatness stopped for me.
Can you see Insidious 2 if you haven't seen the first? Yes, you can in a way that any human being with 14 dollars can purchase and view this film. But there will be no reward for the new viewer. Even though Insidious 2 tries so very, very hard to explain (over and over and over and over again) what's happening, it's still just characters saying words that don't really mean anything and have no real value unless you lived through the first film that established what the further was and why it works the way it does.
And now I've gotten into one of my first issues with Insidious 2. The rule-making. Insidious had rules. If you fall asleep, you can astral project into the further, thus leaving your body open to being taken over by a ghost. The further looks like the set of Insidious with green lights and a fog machine. Check and Check.
The rules in the sequel change willy nilly and it's exceedingly frustrating. In Insidious 2 you can travel back in time in the further, characters can return to the further from heaven, and the list goes on. Even the most forgiving horror fans will start screaming WHAT THE FUCK at the screen when people just start spouting off new rules and tricks to beating ghosts. So Father Josh is possessed by a ghost, but how do we get the ghost out? According to Elise, we have to find the ghost's memories. Then throw a chair in that memory. This will bring the ghost out of Josh. No, seriously, that's how they get the ghost out of Josh. It just felt like someone on set yelled "throw a chair!" and they all went with it.
But perhaps the biggest problem with Insidious 2 was the tone. The masterfully slow tension from the original was still there, but constantly broken by laborious conversations and the need for characters to over-explain themselves while standing around. Ghosts will appear and freak out the audience, only to have the terror shattered by a conversation. Every spooky house the cast enters is constantly being perforated by group chats. Plus, no one talks and moves at the same time. It just felt so disjointed and weird. Which only made things worse when the ghostbuster duo showed up to make jokes (even though they are pretty funny).
Also, the movie is randomly packed with chit-chat filler. Two characters actually get into a car, drive to a park, stop the car, talk for 30 seconds, and drive back to their home. They couldn't have this conversation while driving?
Add the weird rules and broken tension to the fact that everything was shot in what can only be described as a checklist for a collection of terrible horror cliches. There was a scene in an abandoned haunted hospital (which still had the records room intact), a scene in an abandoned haunted house with a teddy bear covered in cobwebs, a child's room with eight rocking horses and a mysterious dusty chandelier that crashed to the floor almost killing a character. At this point in the film I had to ask myself, is Wan just fucking with us?
I'm not even going to indulge my very strong desire to dissect the "if your parents abuse you and force the wrong gender norms upon their child, you will turn into a lunatic and murder a ton of women" message that was churning under the big bad's secret past. Or the idea that a room full of 15 decaying bodies (over two decades old) wouldn't stink up the entire house, let alone the whole block it was on, because I don't want to get all mad again. This is all part of another Scooby Doo-like plot that the ghostbusters and Josh's mom tackle in order to find out who is inside of Josh. Long story short, it really doesn't matter because it doesn't make any sense! They just wanted to shoot a scene where a bunch of dead women stood around in sheets.
On the plus side, the white-painted ghosts are all still scary. And Patrick Wilson is very VERY creepy. There are a few tense scenes in this movie that will make your hair stand on end. But it only proves to be super frustrating because all this excellence is blotted out by bad tone and disjointed transitional scenes. Insidious 2 could have been scary. But instead it's just moments of scary in between scenes of people standing around talking to each other.