This year sure has been kind to the horror genre. With Mama, Warm Bodies, Evil Dead, World War Z, The Conjuring, and You’re Next, we fans have never seen so many theatrical horror films in a span of mere months — let alone such quality. Director James Wan (The Conjuring) now leads the pack with a two-fer of the year’s scariest films and has managed to one-up himself with the PG-13 rated Insidious: Chapter 2. You want scary, the new Chapter takes things to a whole new level. Wan just may wind up becoming one of the true pioneers of fear.
Beginning in 1986 at the Lambert residence, Lorraine (Jocelin Donahue) has welcomed a young Elise (Lindsay Reim) and Carl (Hank Harris) into her home to find out what’s wrong with her son, Josh (Garrett Ryan). Elise soon realizes that Josh has a special gift and can see things that the living are not supposed to see. Cutting back to the present, Renai (Rose Byrne) is being questioned by Detective Sendal (Michael Beach) about the death of Elise (Lin Shaye). Sendal isn’t interested in ghosts, so much as the people who create them.
Meanwhile, the old Lambert residence is still having its share of creaky doors and apparitions, which Josh (Patrick Wilson) keeps trying to shrug off. However, things keep escalating and Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) team up with Carl (Steve Coulter) and Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) to find out what’s really behind the new threat. The investigation leads them to an abandoned hospital packed with its own secrets, and soon enough, they all know there’s only one person who can really help them, even if she died in the first movie.
To keep calling Insidious: Chapter 2 scary is a gross understatement. I know that scary is an objective word when it comes to horror. But for me, this felt like the first time I watched a bootleg copy of The Blair Witch Project in the middle of the night with a friend on a computer. This is pulse pounding, sweat-drenched, push back in my chair, eyes watering, forget to breathe scary. How this managed to get by with a PG-13 while The Conjuring was granted an R is a mystery.
Chapter 2 even finds an ingenious way to integrate itself back into the original film. Yes, things get a little Back to the Future Part II on us. But it’s an amazing twist for a horror sequel and I can’t help but wonder if Whannell wrote the original with a sequel in mind or if he and Wan are really that clever. But I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt as the two did pull off one of the most jaw-dropping twist endings with the original Saw. So, there’s not really much else to say here. The Halloween season is officially here — complete with a Friday the 13th release date — and Insidious: Chapter 2 is the year’s absolute scariest film.
Article first published as Movie Review: ‘Insidious: Chapter 2’ on Blogcritics.