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'Insidious' spends too much time explaining instead of scaring

Film District

By Akshay Seth, Daily B-Side Editor
Published September 15, 2013

If you had a dollar for every time I said, “I got your baby” on the car ride over to see “Insidious: Chapter 2,” you’d have $8. My asshole friends and I were excited. I’m pretty sure all of us had seen enough horror movies in our time to know that sequels in this genre are almost never bankable, but we were hoping against hope. The trailer, if not terrifying, had been an experience, and without it, belligerent exclamations of “I got your baby” to random passers-by would never have been possible. Oh, and #RoseByrne.

Hope can be a terrible thing, and watching it get suffocated at the hands of director James Wan (“The Conjuring”) over the course of an agonizing 105 minutes only makes it worse. Agonizing may be the wrong choice of word. This is by no means a terrible film, delivering expectable scares at unsurprising points, but the problem, as it often is with most horror sequels, is it’s a follow-up to a much better movie. In a perfect world, we’d judge it based only on its merits, and not its predecessors, but sorry James, this is not a perfect world. Our opinion on a film is dictated by our viewing experience, and if that experience suffers in any way, the easiest target becomes what we’re viewing.

The problem with horror sequels is simple: They offer exposition for developments that should be left unexplained, and in doing so inherently dilute whatever made the original worth watching. As that popular saying goes, “we’re scared of what we don’t understand,” and “Insidious: Chapter 2” ’s greatest failing becomes that it tries too hard to explain the supernatural. News flash: People who watch scary movies don’t really give a shit why an imaginary place called The Further exists. We watch scary movies to be scared, and since when has someone explaining anything been at all frightening?

The big “gotcha” moment that sets “Insidious: Chapter 2” in motion (relax, I’m not spoiling anything) comes when we learn that Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson, “The Conjuring”) has been possessed by the creepy, old demon-woman from the last film. So this time around, the son, Dalton (Ty Simpkins, “Iron Man 3”), is never really in danger. Much like the rest of the supporting cast, including Rose Byrne (“The Place Beyond The Pines”), he serves as a prop for the duration of the film, one of the countless people daddy could hurt if his evil side finally kicks in. Byrne’s character runs around scared, hoping to keep her kids from harm’s way, but again, she doesn’t have any meaty input in guiding the story. That rests on Josh and his weird mom, Lorraine (Barbara Hershey, “Black Swan”), as they desperately try to figure out how to get da baby back.

When I walked out of the theater, the first thing I remember exclaiming was something vaguely along the lines of “what the fuck?” I think if someone asked me to elaborate, I would have said, “the reason this film doesn’t work is that it gravitates too much toward two characters without really establishing an atmosphere of tension for them to react to. It uses the supporting cast like cue cards, regurgitating useless BS about the “why’s” and “how’s” no one cares about.” It’s sad. But the saddest part? James Wan’s next project is “Fast & Furious 7.”