DVD Review: 'Insidious: Chapter 2'

By: Heather Seebach

What I like so much about Insidious (2010) is James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s abilities to not only deliver genuine scares but to always show us something new. I never understood the backlash against the film for its exploration of astral projection and the fictional purgatory known as “The Further.” More than just another lame ghost story or a Poltergeist rip-off, Insidious combined spooky thrills with “real life” phenomena. I loved every moment of it – quirkiness and all – but I confess I did not see much use for a sequel. Well, Insidious: Chapter 2 is the follow-up I never knew I needed. Not content to simply re-hash its predecessor, this sequel ups the ante with more creepy locations, new villains, and plenty of mystery. While full of its own surprises, Chapter 2 flows effortlessly with Insidious such that they feel like one continuous movie. 

Picking up right where the first chapter left off, there has been a terrible murder and all eyes are on Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson). Even his loving wife Renai (Rose Byrne) fears he may be possessed by something sinister. While staying at Casa de grandma Lambert (Barbara Hershey), the family continues to be haunted by malicious entities. With the help of old friends, they set out to uncover the truth behind the ghastly Bride in Black that has terrorized Josh since childhood and may still have a hold on him now. 

Since the first film set up the characters and the Further, Chapter 2 quickly leaps right into the good stuff. It is full of unexpected turns which some viewers will find silly but I think they actually inject darkness and humanity into the story. The film mostly explores the backstory behind the original, with the Lambert family taking a backseat to the mystery at hand. So we move beyond just their house to places like a creepy old hospital.  

Chapter 2 continues to prove that make-up reigns supreme over CGI. The villains in this movie are so damn creepy thanks to effective FX make-up. Meanwhile, Wan continues to flex his knack for turning innocent items (dice; tin cans on a string) into something eerie. He also toys around with POV shots for a little bit of a found footage vibe - don't worry, it's brief and cleverly done.

So here's what most of you really want to know - is it as scary as the first movie? Well, no. Then again, I'm in the minority who thinks the original Insidious is scarier than The Conjuring. Chapter 2 has some creepy parts - a few closely resemble The Conjuring, actually - but none that really stuck with me ala J. LaRose's scenes in Insidious. Still, this film does tiptoe (through the tulips...) into disturbing territory with fears that are not so paranormal (murder, suicide, child abuse). Wilson makes an especially good menace - it's nice to see him chewing scenery after playing drab ol' Ed Warren.

While there is a lot to like, this sequel is not without its problems. Firstly, I was a big fan of the ghost hunter sidekicks Tucker and Specs (played by Angus Sampson and writer Leigh Whannell) in the first film, but here their humor seems more forced. It is forgivable, but these characters work better in the background behind Lin Shaye. Secondly, Chapter 2 clearly draws inspiration from a very famous horror film (you'll know it when you see it) and while I loved that at first, it became a bit too much by the end. Finally - and most prominently - there is one very unfortunate dubbing decision that is really distracting and pointless. I would be more specific but, again, you can't miss it.

Still, fans of the first film should be delighted with this continuation. Aside from getting more scares and otherworldly quirkiness, there are some cameos and direct references to part one. Also, horror fans: keep your eyes peeled for a fun little cameo from the film that directly inspired Insidious

I highly recommend watching the original before you see this one. It will help you better follow along and appreciate all the details. It truly feels more like a Lord of the Rings-esque continuation of its predecessor rather than an afterthought sequel. On the hand, if you hated Insidious (especially the third act), well, don't say I didn't warn you. 

Wan says he is done with horror, which is disappointing. I think he'll come back, though. While I never want to see him get bogged down with an endless franchise (remember he jumped ship after the first Saw), the key difference is this: the brains behind Paranormal Activity can shit out a mediocre-at-best entry every Halloween but Wan just made TWO solid horror films this year alone. So please, James, don't stay away too long! I look forward to your 70s-inspired Fast and Furious film but when you're done painting the town with nitrous, come home to this genre that adores you!

Insidious: Chapter 2 is available on December 24, 2013. The DVD release includes two bonus featurettes: "Peripheral Vision", with footage from the set, and "Ghostly Transformation" which reveals how the actors were transformed into ghosts in The Further. The latter is definitely a must-see for FX make-up fans like myself.

The Blu-ray and Combo Pack releases include three additional featurettes: 

-"Haunted Hospital: On Location" about the real haunted location
- "Leigh Whannell's Insidious Journal" much like Leigh made for the first film
- "Work in Progress: On Set Q&A" with cast and filmmaker interviews. 

Furthermore, there are 3 webisodes about the paranormal investigators Specs and Tucker! I may not have loved them in this film, but I am all for more Specs and Tucker.

You can pick up the DVD and/or Combo Pack below:

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