Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

(On Cable TV, October 2014) The horror genre has a long history of great films leading to so-so sequels, and Insidious 2 is now part of that tradition.  Insidious made a mark partly by being one of the first good American horror movie in a while that wasn’t trying to rely on found-footage tropes, and it heralded a number of similar or better movies in its wake, from Sinister to The Conjuring.  Still, it wasn’t without its flaws, and this sequel seems to dwell at length on those less successful aspects while throwing in a number of old clichés.  Oh, so a cross-dressing serial killer is the big bad guy of the series?  Let me get my fainting salts.  In overall impact, Insidious 2 cranks down the dial from Good to Average with far more conventional thrills and a familiar formula.  (Keep in mind, though, that the titular “Chapter 2” is there for a reason: this is absolutely not a stand-alone sequel, and it is best seen immediately after the first film.)  There are still plenty of things to like –including going back in time to explain goose-bumps from the first film, acknowledging its own absurdity with a well-placed “So that’s what it was all about”, an effective jump-shot explaining what the phantom piano-playing meant, and finding a more-than-adequate younger counterpart for Lin Shaye in Lindsay Seim.  Shaye once again steals the spotlight during her short appearance, while Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne do what is expected of them (though Wilson has a harder dual role to manage).  Meanwhile, director James Wan continues to perfect his technique: this follow-up is a bit less blunt in its scares than its predecessor.  By the time the shock-ending title card rolls around, we’ve seen enough to be entertained, but not quite enough to be impressed: Insidious 2 gets credits for being an acceptable follow-up, but it’s far more ordinary that it should have been.

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