The Lambert family and the demonic creatures plaguing it are back in Insidious: Chapter 2, a movie that picks up almost exactly where the last movie ended.
As you’ll recall, Renai Lambert (Rose Byrne) and her husband Josh (Patrick Wilson) had just saved their comatose son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) from a dreamworld hellscape with the help of spirit-world go-between Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye). (To sum up: when asleep, Dalton and, as it turns out, Josh had the power to visit the netherworld populated by roaming spirits of the dead. On seeing Dalton or Josh, these dead would try to follow them out, to come with them and enjoy some of the benefits of being alive.)
But, SPOILER ALERT if you didn’t see Insidious, to get Dalton out, Josh had to go in. At the end of Insidious, Elise discovers that it’s not Josh’s soul that came back into his body but that of the creepy demon-lady who has been haunting them. As Chapter 2 picks up, Renai is talking to the police about Elise’s murder. They — and she — suspect Josh, but without direct evidence, he goes home. The family (which also includes another son and a baby girl) is currently staying at a big creepy Victorian that belongs to Josh’s mother Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) because their home is still a crime scene.
Despite Josh’s assertion that all that ghostly funny business is behind them, Renai knows right away that something’s wrong. Music plays at odd times, weird sounds come over the baby monitor and then, to clinch it, she sees the apparition of a lady in white. Also, Renai is pretty sure there’s more going on with Josh than he is letting on.
Lorraine is also pretty sure the otherworldly aren’t done with her family and she reconnects with Elise’s assistants, Specs (Leigh Whannell, who also wrote the movie) and Tucker (Angus Sampson). They, along with Elise’s old colleague Carl (Steve Coulter), try to uncover exactly who the haunting spirits were in life and what they may want now.
MORE SPOILER ALERT: At the very end of this movie, there is a hint that the franchise could continue with Specs and Tucker hunting down others afflicted with the same attacks from the spirit world as the Lamberts. In their vaguely missionary outfits with a relationship built on constant low-level bickering, Specs and Tucker are kind of fantastic, the Statler and Waldorf of ghostbusting. For the record, Hollywood, I am all in for the Specs and Tucker spin-off.
Their relationship is emblematic of the overall tone of the Insidious movies, which isn’t jokey but definitely has a sense of humor about itself and its genre. I think it’s this tone that helps Byrne and Wilson make their characters feel real — Byrne’s reaction to, say, spooky voices on the baby monitor is exactly what a normal person’s would be, one part “what the heck” and two parts “my baby!”
The movie also circles back around and through the first Insidious in a clever way, making it truly feel like not just a second chapter but a continuous story — but without making it obligatory for someone to have seen the first movie.
Insidious: Chapter 2 is a nice blend of all the things you’d hope for in a horror movie — and a horror movie sequel: genuine moments of suspense, characters you care about, a good-enough story and just enough wry humor. B
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of terror and violence, and thematic elements. Directed by James Wan with a screenplay by Leigh Whannell (from a story by Whannell and Wan), Insidious: Chapter 2 is an hour and 45 minutes long and distributed by FilmDistrict.