Insidious ended like most modern aspiring horror franchises often do: teasing a sequel. So after the film’s successful box office run, it was no surprise that the same writer/director team of Leigh Whannell and James Wan got right to work on Insidious: Chapter 2. And, boy, did they make a confusing follow-up.
Chapter 2 opens with a scene from Josh’s past, and if it felt incredibly redundant to you, that’s because it is. Sort of. It’s a scene that was already detailed in Insidious, except this reenactment features some other shit sprinkled in that literally means nothing until the last 20 minutes of the movie, during which time it somehow means everything.
[If that was confusing, convoluted, logically flawed, or difficult to follow, welcome to the experience of watching Insidious: Chapter 2.]
Once the film returns from Josh’s past to the present timeline, it proceeds to waste a ton of time being redundant and trying to figure out what it’s actually about.
There’s a weird pseudo-interrogation bit between Renai and a cop in regard to Elise’s apparent murder, but the tone is totally wrong and distracting. The cop shows up later via phone call, and again, just a really weird and ineffective choice.
And as far as Renai’s feelings about Josh go, we saw how Insidious ended. She saw the picture Elise took, she’s like, “Oh, fuck.” We’re all on the same page re: something’s going on with Josh, and Renai is a part of that. So, then, riddle me this: Why are the two major conversations between Renai and Josh in the first 19 minutes of the film the exact same conversation in which Josh says, “Oh, you think I did it?!” and then Renai looks upset and unsure and is basically saying yes with her eyes? What a waste of time.
And then, when Whannell and Wan got to this point in the writing process, instead of putting the markers down and maybe taking a nap or making a bologna sandwich about it, they just really doubled down. The next 45 minutes of the movie is just chaos. The story is incredibly confusing, with so many seemingly unnecessary twists and turns without enough rationale for making the detours. The scares weren’t anything special, the focus was off, and it’s exhausting to keep needing characters in the film to explain to you what’s happening.
Josh goes from being probably definitely possessed by the woman in black at the end of the first Insidious, to maybe possessed and maybe not, to not possessed but probably haunted, to definitely possessed by a woman, to possessed by a man dressed as a woman because of mother issues, to not even being in his body but rather trapped in the Further. The last 20 minutes take on a real The Shining vibe, and that was weird and out of place, too.
The film felt much longer than its hour and forty-something runtime because of its severe lack of focus and insistence on doing too much for no reason. The only reason that it was even remotely followable was because characters—through poorly written, painfully unrealistic dialogue—were constantly explaining exactly what just happened and how we were supposed to feel about it anytime anyone did anything.
Cleverly disguised hand-holding can usually be forgiven, when the payoff is a better understanding of a perhaps more interesting or higher-level concept. But when having a narrator there to translate even the simplest plot points becomes imperative, that’s a problem.
If you can’t tell, I didn’t care for Insidious: Chapter 2. There were certain parts, I suppose, that were interesting or spooky. But there absolutely were not enough of them. Mostly, I think Chapter 2 was poorly written, unfocused, and lazy, and I think that’s a major bummer considering the hot crowd that Insidious had already cooked up for it.