AAH! It’s Patrick Wilson! Turn off the light!!

Theatrical Release Date: 09/13/2013
Director: James Wan
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Barbara Hershey, Steve Coulter, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of terror and violence, and thematic elements.
Runtime: 1 hour, 45 minutes


Keep quiet, kid. Patrick Wilson is after you.

I suppose I should begin by letting you all know that I never saw Insidious, the very well received horror film from 2011. I can follow that up by letting you know that if you haven’t seen Insidious, you really don’t need to see Insidious: Chapter 2.

I get the feeling that this is an unnecessary sequel. I caught the gist of the first film through the exposition of Insidious: Chapter 2 – the small son of Josh and Renai Lambert (horror star du jour Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) is in a coma due to his ability to “astral project” and enter other planes of existence (or something like that, I have no real idea what you call it). This left their family open to paranormal terrors and his father, from whom he inherited his ability, ventures into the scary other world to retrieve him. Apparently, this was not the cure-all they might have been hoping for because, well, here we are watching Chapter 2.

The script is written by Leigh Whannell and directed by James Wan, the team that created the Saw franchise, films emblematic of the torture porn genre. This isn’t Wan’s first horror film of the summer; he’s already scored a hit with The Conjuring. In my review of that film, I admired its lack of gore and its more time-honored horror aesthetic. Insidious: Chapter 2 is in that same vein, which is praiseworthy.

Less commendable is the silly, unsurprising plot and Patrick Wilson’s blandly unhinged performance. There are moments where you get the feeling Wilson is trying to channel Jack Nicholson’s deranged dad from The Shining. He’s got the vacant stare and the maniacal smile but he’s no Jack Nicholson and I think I prefer him on the flip side of the horror movie coin. Rose Byrne is fine as his wan, terrified wife, but the best performance comes from Barbara Hershey as his alarmed, yet proactive mother. She teams up with an old gentleman who is familiar with their plight and conjures the spirits through some dice and a pair of ghost hunters (whose names I didn’t catch while I was watching it — instead I called them Four-Eyes and Beardo, and I loved them). While the nuclear Lambert family freaks out all over the place, Hershey’s ragtag ghostbusters are out adventuring and providing comic-relief. Hershey is still a fine actress and adds a bit of gravitas to the silliness. Beardo (Angus Sampson) was, hands down, my favorite part of the movie. He and Four-Eyes (played by screenwriter Leigh Whannell) had great timing and the moments where I was in fear for his wellbeing were the most tense for me.

The film eschews gore and has a lot of the classic horror staples like eerie noises, monsters in the closet and spooky ladies wearing old-timey gowns hiding in the shadows. Many of these are standard practical effects, including a series of children’s toys that move spontaneously and turn themselves on and off without warning. I honestly think that if there’s something to be gained by watching this, it’s the lesson that children’s toys that light up and play loud music are inherently evil.

But I already knew that. Equipped with that knowledge and not needing to spend my money on yet another predictable scary movie, I could have skipped Insidious: Chapter 2 entirely. If you saw Insidious and are interested in finding out what happens to the Lamberts, knock yourself out. After you’ve seen it you can let me know if you’re looking forward to the third installment of this franchise, because you’ll walk away knowing that will be here in no time.

2 out of 5