Film Review Insidious Chapter 2AP

Cheap, creepy and -- most importantly -- insanely profitable, the first "Insidious" is widely credited with ushering in a new wave of old-school horror movies that kept their budgets low and scares high. That success, plus the movie's cliffhanger ending, meant bringing the Lambert family, director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell (the duo behind that other breakout horror hit, "Saw") back for a sequel was a no-brainer.

Now, with "Insidious: Chapter 2," the next installment in the supernatural saga, coming out on Friday the 13th (of course), the big question for both Hollywood and horror fans is whether the pair can repeat their past success, or if they're doomed for a sophomore slump. Here is a guide to help moviegoers decide for themselves.

1. Did you like the first "Insidious?"
Whether you'll be interested in "Chapter 2" largely depends on how much you liked Chapter 1, considering the sequel picks up right after the last movie left off: with the Lamberts still haunted by the same spirits their son Dalton's astral projecting unwittingly attracted in the first "Insidious." Only this time, Wan ditches that film's slow-burn pacing for a more action-heavy sequel that gets right into the scares and keeps them coming. If you weren't a fan of the first installment, plan on spending the next hour and 45 minutes attempting to astral project yourself out of the theatre.

2. Do you like Patrick Wilson?
Obviously Wan does, since this marks the director's third straight collaboration with Wilson. And after spending most of the first "Insidious" in a thankless role as a clichéd and willfully ignorant horror dad, Wilson gets to have a whole lot more fun here. For a guy used to playing the straight man, it's no wonder he has such a good time hurling kitchenware.

3. Are you able to tell the difference between an homage and a rip-off?
Where the first "Insidious" channeled "Poltergeist," Wan turns to "The Shining" for inspiration on "Chapter 2." That means less focus on the Lambert's precocious son, and more on Wilson's Josh, who we last saw choking out a sweet old lady. And while there aren't any elevators of blood, when a possessed Josh starts terrorizing his family, the entire third act turns into one long Kubrick homage -- or rip-off, if you're feeling less charitable.

4. Do you enjoy when characters watch relevant horror classics in horror movies?
Speaking of references, right before the supernatural visits start ramping back up, Josh's mom Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) is shown watching "Carnival of Souls," a 1962 horror standard that just so happens to be about a woman plagued by ghostly visions. Because apparently nothing relaxes you after saving your grandson from evil demons quite like settling down with a movie guaranteed to remind you of that traumatic experience -- and that probably hasn't run on cable in 50 years. In hindsight, that should've been the first tip-off that something strange was going on in Lorraine's house.

5. Are you a proponent of squatter's rights?
In the first movie, we're told that the reason the dead become interested in Dalton's body is because he's left it vacant for too long, thanks to getting lost in an otherworldly realm known as "The Further." So when Josh does the same in "Chapter 2," it's no surprise his abandoned body attracts squatters. His family does their best to evict the spirit, but it's not easy. Apparently in horror movies, possession is 9/10ths of the law.

6. Have you ever wanted to play Boggle with a ghost?
Thanks to its rep as a sort of supernatural walkie-talkie, the Ouija board is a horror movie staple. But "Insidious: Chapter 2" adds a new wrinkle to this tradition with a ghost hunter whose methods of communicating with the dead looks an awful lot like playing Boggle. Of course, mixing board games and ghosts is something of an inexact science, and the lettered dice make it difficult to tell if a spirit is trying to scare you or just trash-talk: "You die now" could just as easily spell "I owned you."

7. Were you a middle child?
Unlike Dalton and baby Kali, who get visited by the dead on a pretty much daily basis in both films, the Lambert's middle child gets no love from the movie's evil spirits, or Wan for that matter. In "Chapter 2," he's basically there to connect tin cans to a string and then be forgotten. Expect this to bring back unpleasant memories for all you middle children out there.

8. Do you have a phobia of fog machines?
Part of the reason the first "Insidious" was able to keep its budget low is because its ghost world "The Further" was essentially the exact same set, only with the lights turned off and a fog machine running. With more money at his disposal for the sequel, Wan's able to expand his arsenal of creepy settings here. Still, not since John Carpenter has a horror movie made such concerted use of dry ice.

9. Did you want less of Specs and Tucker?
Too bad. Because while many moviegoers weren't been big fans of the first film's attempts at comic relief, Whannell (who also played Specs) heard those complaints loud and clear -- and promptly ignored them. So both Whannell and Angus Sampson reprise their roles as the bumbling ghost hunters, and if possible, are even more terrifyingly inept here. Consider yourself warned.

10. Are you capable of not asking too many questions?
Same as in the first "Insidious," whenever the astral projection angle ramps up, the story becomes increasingly convoluted. To their credit, Wan and Whannell attempt to plug any leftover plotholes from the first film with clever retroactive alterations. Still, it's not quite enough to answer the biggest head-scratcher that the sequel raises: since Wan's other 2013 horror release "The Conjuring" was so well-made, why wasn't this movie better? We'll probably have to wait until "Chapter 3" to find out.

"Insidious: Chapter 2" opens on Friday, September 13.



The Horror and Thriller Trailer For Insidious: Chapter 2