It’s always disheartening when mediocre movies do well at the box office and give birth to sequels.
Made by the same team behind the first “Insidious” — director James Wan (“The Conjuring”), writer Leigh Whannell (“Saw II” and “III”) — “Insidious: Chapter 2” picks up right where chapter one left us, and with virtually the same cast.
The first installment wrapped with dad Josh (Patrick Wilson, “Little Children”) astral-projecting to rescue son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) from demonic kidnapping. Viewers also need to know Josh strangled paranormal expert Elise (Lin Shaye). Or did he? Wife and mom Renai (Rose Byrne, “X-Men: First Class”) never saw him commit the crime.
Now the Lambert family, barely recovered from these paranormal escapades, has moved into the home of matriarch Lorraine (Barbara Hershey). This old house is also Josh’s childhood haunt, so you can bet that the prologue, an ’80s flashback set in the same Victorian home, with a younger Elise and a kid recounting “bad dreams,” might somehow connect adult Josh to the kid.
The ghoulish jibber-jabber has followed the Lamberts to the new place. Creaky doors. Tinkling piano music. A baby-walker blasting to life. “Is there something wrong with Daddy?,” Dalton asks. Josh has been acting funny, and he did extract his own tooth, but insists all is fine. “I want to be a normal family again” is the first of many increasingly (and unintentionally) humorous lines Wilson delivers. Beleaguered Renai should begin by insisting mom-in-law Hershey hire a handyman to oil the door hinges.
The tonal shifts are even wilder than in the first film. A sincere mystic named Carl (Steve Coulter), friend of deceased Elise, throws his seance dice, which connect the happenings to a dead serial killer. Then unexplained phenomena hunters Specs (screenwriter Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) wander
in, as if from another plane. These guys should get their own comedic ghost-busting movie. They don’t belong in this one.
Culminating in another astral journey into The Further, the whole misty mess ends with one of the worst finales in recent memory — one that crassly sets the franchise up for strike three.
“Insidious: Chapter 2” isn’t terribly scary, or even terribly violent. At times, it’s terribly funny. At the screening I attended, I heard a voice moan from a dark corner, “You’ve got to be kidding.” But it wasn’t a ghost.Ethan Gilsdorf can be reached at www.ethangilsdorf.com. Follow him on Twitter @ethanfreak.