More silly than its sinister predecessor, Insidious: Chapter 2 is entertaining for the contortions the script makes to incorporate both a brief prequel and highlights from the first film into a 105-minute package.
This is a Mobius strip of a movie, looping in on itself with ghosts from The Further and parallel existences interwoven in the lives of the lost Lamberts of Somewhere, Calif.
Those Saw/Insidious guys James Wan (director) and Leigh Whannell (co-writer, co-star) throw their pretty good cast — Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne and Barbara Hershey — into a follow-up to the Poltergeist-ish tale of the gutsy, long-haunted dad, Josh (Wilson), who goes "to the other side" to fetch his kidnapped boy (Ty Simpkins) from the demonic spirit that snatched him. And if the result isn't nearly as hair-raising as the first film, at least they've set the table for more sequels, spinoffs — a sort of Lone Gunmen TV series, even.
A 10-minute prologue tells us that younger Josh was first visited by a spirit and was "treated" by ghostbuster Elise (Lindsay Seim as a younger version of Lin Shaye's character). Back in the present, adult Josh and wife Renai (Byrne) have fled to Grandma's house after the harrowing events of Insidious, which ended with Elise dead.
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Renai doesn't know for sure that Josh didn't kill the medium, nor do the cops. It doesn't help that Josh is faintly demonic in his denials about the spooky apparitions, a piano that plays by itself, etc.
"You have to relax," he purrs. "Ignore them and they will go away."
Of course, "they" don't. That's when granny Lorraine (Hershey) summons Elise's old partner (Steve Coulter), along with her younger ghost hunters, Specs (Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson).
Then the joking begins. In white shirts and black ties, the ghost hunters have everything but the sunglasses and sport coats of Men in Black. They're credulous when all around them are incredulous.
That's the sly comfort in this "feel-good" horror franchise. Out there, in the Yellow Pages, there are "experts" who can help you deal with the supernatural. And even after death, a good ghost hunter is still on the clock.
The techno-props — baby monitors (been there, heard that), old found video, tin-can telephones — convey the ghostly voices from beyond. The Ouija board substitute is a Boggle bag of letter dice that pass on messages from the dead.
The beastly things we see are nothing you wouldn't recognize from Mommie Dearest.
And everybody keeps a straight face.
Chapter 2 isn't as clever as the screenwriters seem to think, and the movie isn't remotely as scary as the film it follows. But it's entertaining, on some level, even if you can tell that the "name" actors are waiting for the checks to clear, ready to hand off this franchise to lesser lights, and the sooner the better.
'Insidious: Chapter 2'
PG-13 for intense sequences of terror and violence, and thematic elements. FilmDistrict. 1:45. Fayette Mall, Frankfort, Hamburg, Movie Tavern, Nicholasville, Richmond, Winchester, Woodhill.