‘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

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.