2013 has been a good year for James Wan, bringing two highly anticipated spooks to our screens; earlier this spring came his first haunted horror with The Conjuring and, now, two months later, the inevitable sequel of his 2010 Insidious looks to wrap up his involvement in the continuing franchise.
The suspicious mental state of Josh continues into the second and is by far the more interesting activity in the sequel, as is the return of our beloved heroine Elise (Lin Shaye), now dead but as determined to help the family as ever. Though the sequel primarily stands to wrap up the first, it serves up a worthy standalone plot with more to like than dislike. Insights into The Further and its transitory connections with the real world are given priority over the generic haunted house conventions, deriving a less familiar and more nightmarish dark fantasy feel. Saying that, it disappointingly suffers creatively from a lack of other worldly atmosphere, with the bleak look of the misty realm itself not revealing much more scope than what we see in the first.
But what triumphs for the sequel is that it scares. Fewer bumps in the night make way for more aesthetically obvious haunts as the evil spirits are more personified in actual figures and more two dimensional characters than simply through their possessions and supernatural activities (though that’s not to say we don’t get the odd rolling musical toy and self-playing piano). It’s certainly not the slow-burn, creeping around dark corners with a torch movie that the first claimed. Instead, when it really gets going and the spirits come to being, a constant crescendo of boisterous, shrill and deafening noise accompanies garish close-ups to fill the screen in a real attack of the senses. Though not a particularly preferred, effective or original tactic, its ambitiousness to experiment with a different tone is something to be admired.
And where frights come, fun is quick on its heel. Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), the comedic duo that are seemingly compulsory for the modern horror movie, are reprised in jolly spirits, tastefully providing a few harmless giggles through dumb and dumber slapstick moments and eye-rolling one liners, but never really fitting into the mould any more so this time round.
The childhood backstory of Josh and continuous revelations from start to finish displays smart script writing from Wan and Leigh Whannell at its best, whilst too succumbing to the trappings of seeming unnecessarily busy and over-explanatory for its own good. Some scenes can easily be branded pointless. Nevertheless it brings an acceptable ending and a necessary part two to the frustratingly incomplete premise of the first. Having conjured up a number of stirs and scares in his first horror of the year, Wan wraps up 2013 with a noteworthy sequel and a promise to continue his efforts in the genre. Even if his next bill is Fast and Furious 7.
VERDICT: Though not edging close to its true potential, this sequel a step up from the first in terms of both plot and scares, giving you more than enough to digest in its multi-layered script. An inevitably marmite film from Wan bound to divide audiences.