‘Insidious: Chapter 2′ represents that fabled step back

Patrick Wilson (opposite a scary ambiguous figure) returns for "Insidious: Chapter 2." Credit: Matt Kennedy
Patrick Wilson (opposite a scary ambiguous figure) returns for “Insidious: Chapter 2.”
Credit: Matt Kennedy

‘Insidious: Chapter 2′
Director: James Wan
Stars: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne
Rating: PG-13
2 (out of 5) Globes

Over the last few years, the director James Wan has made great strides in atoning for his debut, “Saw.” Starting with “Insidious” and continuing with this July’s “The Conjuring,” he’s been honing his craft, reviving a dormant subgenre — the haunted house picture — and bringing back old school, wholly analogue frights. There are no digital effects in either film — just prowling camerawork, creaking floorboards, practical effects … and the occasional, unfortunate boo effect brought about by SUDDEN LOUD NOISES.

Following two mighty steps forward, “Insidious: Chapter 2” is that fabled step back. It might have been silly to simply repeat the charms of the first, which Wan essentially did already, only better, with “The Conjuring.” But “Chapter 2” takes the series in the wrong direction: from simple (if mildly convoluted) ghost movie to deep, borderline impenetrable mythology. Did you know there was a deeper backstory to the ghoul that latched onto the Lamberts? Did you really need to know more about that alternate spirit world, depicted as somewhere between The Black Lodge on “Twin Peaks” and a rural haunted house in Nowhere, America, complete with excess fog machines?

This time, it’s dad (Patrick Wilson) who’s troubled. At the end of the first, he seemed to be possessed by a homicidal demon, who strangled the token creepy psychic hero (Lin Shaye). This second installment picks right up, with mom (Rose Byrne) and Wilson’s own mom (Barbara Hershey) very, very slowly realizing that he’s no longer who he once was, and may be pretty good with a knife.

There’s a great sequel in here somewhere, which plays more with a family’s trust in its own members being violated. But the script (by sometime cohort Leigh Whannel, who reprises his supporting role) is a jumble — a mishmash of spinning plates barely kept in the air. It tries to milk the creepy dad angle for chills and blatant ripoffs of “The Shining,” all while delving into the ghost baddies’ secret origins. With all the business going on, there’s hardly any time left for actual scares.

More important, it doesn’t — like “The Conjuring” — give Wan much chance to show off. He’s too busy with plot to really dig into scenes, which are about exposition first, frights a distant second. It assumes what we want is a deeper understanding (superficially speaking) of its world. What we need is more chances to bite our nails and dig our elbows into the ribs of the person sitting next to us. Perhaps that will be “Chapter 3,” leaving this the traditional doughy middle.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Protesters say new Met Opera is anti-Semitic

Protesters, including a former mayor and governor, gathered outside of the Metropolitan Opera on Monday afternoon to protest the opening of “The Death of Klinghoffer.”

Local

Brooklyn girl's death ruled a homicide

The New York City Medical Examiner has ruled the death of a Brooklyn toddler a homicide. Jeida Torres, 3, was found bruised and unresponsive Saturday…

Local

New York City continues to prepare for Ebola…

New York City continues to prepare for the possibility of Ebola. There have been numerous scares, but no confirmed cases. Representatives from about 150 unions…

Local

NYPD nabs alleged serial bank robber

  The NYPD has arrested a man they say is responsible for multiple Manhattan bank robberies this month. Police have arrested a Brooklyn man they…

Entertainment

We the Economy: Morgan Spurlock's new crusade

If Morgan Spurlock gets his way, you won't be able to avoid We the Economy, the series of 20 shorts films curated by the "Super…

Arts

3 Parody plays lampoon your childhood, adulthood and…

Whether you loved the source material or you're going in blind, these parody plays have something for every audience member. We rate three of NYC's hottest satirical shows.

Gossip

Who has more power: Harry Styles or Amal…

Amal Clooney comes in fourth on The Evening Standard's Most Influential Londoners list.

Music

#AskPaul McCartney reveals his love of American pop…

For an Englishman, Paul McCartney's pop culture tastes would fit right in stateside. The former Beatle (@PaulMcCartney) revealed that he has a real thing for…

NFL

Breno Giacomini: Media blowing up Golden Tate-Percy Harvin…

According to Breno Giacomini, the fight between Golden Tate and Percy Harvin during Super Bowl week was over by the time the lineman turned around.

College

College football AP Top 25 rankings: Mississippi State…

College football AP Top 25 rankings: Mississippi State holds off FSU

NHL

NHL Power Rankings: Sharks, Canadiens, Blackhawks out in…

NHL Power Rankings: Sharks, Canadiens, Blackhawks out in front

NFL

DeMarco Murray carries Cowboys to win over Giants

The Giants knew they would need to stop DeMarco Murray if they were going to leave Dallas with a win. It didn't matter.

Education

Is a 'gap year' after high school for…

It’s a familiar script that millions of students follow each year: Graduate high school and then immediately start college. But more and more students are…

Parenting

New news about Kate Middleton's pregnancy

The Palace released a statement about Kate Middleton's pregnancy.

Parenting

Cool book for kids: 'The Princess In Black'

"The Princess In Black" will change the way girls view princesses.

Wellbeing

Gabby Bernstein: The 3 questions I always get

For the last decade, I’ve been writing self-help books and preaching the Gospel of Gabby to audiences throughout the world. And no matter what country…