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Saturday October 12, 2013 MYT 12:30:00 AM
Saturday October 12, 2013 MYT 6:10:58 AM
By DAVIN ARUL
HORROR flick Insidious now looks set to become a continuing saga, since Chapter 2 has earned back something like 15 times its production budget at the US box office alone as of last weekend. And, oh yes, there’s a creepy epilogue here, just in case you aren’t clued in (yet) that more sequels are coming ... until perhaps they hit Chapter 11.
This new instalment is not called “Chapter 2” for nothing – the frights pick up right where the original left off, with the imperiled, haunted Lambert family still imperiled and (if that’s possible) even more haunted than before.
I found the first Insidious to be a relentlessly scary, well orchestrated tale that combined good old-fashioned jolts with spine-tingling stuff that messed with you and stuck in your head (the mysterious prowler outside the bedroom window who’s suddenly inside the room, the woman in black “shadowing” a young boy in snapshots).
It cemented director James Wan’s status as a real master at building up scares, as opposed to horror hacks who just drop cheap shocks on you one after another.
I survived Wan’s next ghostly tale, The Conjuring, by actually getting angry at its petty, implacable spirit by relating it to the petty, implacable people in my acquaintance (don’t take offence, it was just my subconsciousness’ way of coping).
It was probably inevitable that I would not find Insidious: Chapter 2 as scary as those two films.
This is not to say it won’t freak you out in places. Oh, Wan seems to just get better with the slow buildup and anticipated-but-startling reveal (one of the best ones was spoiled in the film’s trailer), though one gimmick – an annoying baby stroller with blinking lights and music that keeps coming “alive” – is somewhat overused. I would’ve chopped the thing into tiny pieces after its first flare-up.
And closets. Why the heck does he have to centre so many gooseflesh-raising sequences on tall, imposing closets ... just like the one in my room?
OK, so it’s not breaking news that Wan is good at scaring people. But for Chapter 2, he and co-writer Leigh Whannell (who plays paranormal investigator Specs, one half of the film’s comic relief – the other being Angus Sampson’s Tucker, his partner) focus on answers instead of all-out scares.
These mainly have to do with the malignant forces that have haunted Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) since his childhood, and which we saw glimpses of in the first movie. The emaciated Darth Maul lookalike demon from the previous film is gone, but the woman in black, as well as a woman in white, are here and they’re no less terrifying ... perhaps even more so.
Back in Insidious, it was established that Josh had the ability to project his “astral self” into the Further (how Stephen King-ish is that?), a dimension filled with the tortured souls of the dead. This ability was suppressed in his childhood, but it turns out his son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) shared the same gift, and ended up comatose in our world when his consciousness/soul became trapped in the Further.
So, Josh went in to get him back – which he did. Only what came back into Josh’s body wasn’t Josh, and this second film deals with the consequences of that.
It also delves into the history of the woman in black, and the sheer scale of the violence and horror in that back story are more chilling than the film’s overt scares.
Where the film unravels a bit, and the story’s revelations begin to resemble random suggestions thrown out during a conference between the writers, is when the action inevitably shifts back into the Further.
Things exist simultaneously here? Travellers can access past events as well as present? Whut? Why not the future then, if it’s all right there and then? And it’s that easy to move from one place to another in the Further?
Such storytelling stunts cause Insidious: Chapter 2 to make less sense than it would have, if they’d just given us another exposition-free scare-fest. another hundred minutes of blood-curdling frights.
It’s still good, the way Wan and Whannell tie some threads – including a few from the previous film – together. And the easy chemistry among the story’s family members and their friends helps to make the protagonists sympathetic and likeable, so it’s not asking too much of the viewer to be invested in their welfare.
Though it must be said that Tucker and Specs’ scheme (cooked up with two other characters who really should’ve known better) to subdue the possessed Josh is really quite ... dumb-ass; but if it was a great plan, we wouldn’t have had such an intense and knuckle-whitening finale.
I guess it’s all about trade-offs when it comes to horror movies. You can’t have everything, but Wan’s output has joined the elite – if thin – ranks of those who showed that, to most intents and purposes, you can.
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Lifestyle, Movies, Insidious: Chapter 2, movie, review, James Wan, Rose Byrne, Patrick Wilson, Lin Shaye, Ty Simpkins
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