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"INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2"
(2013) (Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Horror: After rescuing their seemingly comatose son who had astral-projected himself into another dimension, a family discovers that a spirit they previously encountered is not done with them yet.
PLOT:
Recently, Josh (PATRICK WILSON) and Renai (ROSE BYRNE) moved into a new home with their three kids, an infant and preteen brothers Dalton (TY SIMPKINS) and Foster (ANDREW ASTOR). When Dalton fell and ended up in a coma, strange and spooky things started happening around the house, while Josh's mother, Lorraine (BARBARA HERSHEY), had nightmares and terrifying visions about Dalton.

That led to Renai hiring medium Elise Reiner (LIN SHAYE) and her team of paranormal investigators, Tucker (ANGUS SAMPSON) and Specs (LEIGH WHANNELL) to check out the house. They discovered that Dalton wasn't actually in a coma but had astral-projected himself into another dimension known as "The Further" where otherworldly beings, spirits and a demon wanted his physical body. With their help, Josh -- who turned out also to have a past history of entering that other dimension -- went there and rescued his son. All of that, however, resulted in Elise's death.

With the family reunited, they're now living with Lorraine, but the spooky stuff starts happening again. While Renai increasingly freaks out with each occurrence that includes repeated views of a woman in a long dress, Josh tries to remain calm, reminding her that those spirits can't harm them if they manage to ignore them.

At the same time, Tucker and Specs manage to stumble upon an old tape from the 1980s that shows Elise and her paranormal investigator partner, Carl (STEVE COULTER), trying to help Josh as a boy deal with the same sort of thing Dalton is experiencing. That eventually leads to them, now joined by Carl, trying to get to the bottom of what's occurring with the family, all as the terrifying events keep intensifying.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
Perhaps it's due to my past experience penning a time travel based screenplay, but I've always been enticed by stories where multiple variations of the same person share a physical location. Yes, that breaks the unwritten "official" rule of time travel where that supposedly can't happen lest the universe implode, Einstein spin in his grave and yes, cats and dogs end up living together. It also brings up the usual time travel conundrum of a person from the future affecting their past self and thus the future one as well, etc. Nonetheless, it's a cool concept.

Of course, a way around that is to remove the time travel aspect from the equation, and that's exactly what writer/director James Wan does in "Insidious: Chapter 2," the sequel to, you guessed it, "Insidious." That 2011 film was all about astral projection into a void-like dimension -- known as The Further -- that overlaps our own. Not only do some of the dead exist in some sort of purgatory there, but so do physical structures familiar to those who might just be passing through, such as their home. Of course, that was the second half reveal of the flick that otherwise started as a standard haunted house type spook-fest with lots of tense moments, scads of jump scenes, and made Tiny Tim even scarier for those of us old enough to remember him.

Those continue here (minus any tulip tip-toeing), as does a return of comic relief provided by Angus Sampson and Leigh Whannell as paranormal investigators whose boss (Lin Shaye) passed on (due to being murdered, supernatural style) at the very end of the first flick. But Wan and co-writer Leigh Whannell go a step further by delivering some fun, sometimes funny and altogether cool explanations of certain things that go bump in the night, not only in this film, but also its predecessor.

Without giving too much away, let's just say various characters end up doing an alternate version of time travel and the results are infectiously entertaining, even for someone like yours truly who wasn't a true fan boy of the first offering (though I thought it was decent enough for what it was striving to be and do for viewers who like this sort of entertainment).

That additional element, while perhaps off-putting to pure horror film fans who might find it dilutes the offering and thus lessens the scares, is what elevates the pic a notch or two above the original as well as most other entries (at least of recent) in this genre. And that's because the vast majority go through the same motions as those that have preceded them -- namely supernatural events start slowly, escalate and that's followed by the reveal of who/what is responsible.

I have no idea if the writing/directing team purposefully set up the first film for those payoffs this time around or just got creative in squeezing them into the plot. Either way, it's a fun and sometimes nearly giddy addition that adds an interesting layer to what did and currently is happening in the plot.

And that's basically that a family (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne returning as the parents, Ty Simpkins and Andrew Astor as their sons, and a very young actress as their infant sister) learns they didn't exactly escape the spooky stuff that transpired in the first film (whose ended teased that was just the case).

That results in the dad starting to go all Jack Torrance on his family (sans the obsessive writing and any Redrum moment), while his mother-in-law, the paranormal duo and their boss' former partner (Steve Coulter) do some ghost sleuthing in a town where apparently hospitals and homes are left abandoned for decades, all the better to provide the disheveled backdrop for scares.

There are plenty of those, both of the truly jolting variety as well as the general anticipation of waiting for something to scare us. But it's the creative way the film starts to wrap around itself and pull in parts of its predecessor that make it come off like a crazy haunted house ride. I enjoyed it, and thus give "Insidious: Chapter 2" a 6 out of 10 rating.




Reviewed September 10, 2013 / Posted September 13, 2013


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