Director James Wan may always be best known as the co-creator of “Saw,” the series of films that kicked off the torture porn, or gorno trend, but his subsequent films have relied more on creepy atmosphere than buckets of blood.
The plasma budget for his latest, “Insidious: Chapter 2,” must have been practically zero, but what it lacks in gore it makes up for in smoke, shadows and eerie red doors.
Once again the story focuses on the Lambert family—wife Renai (Rose Byrne), husband Josh (Patrick Wilson), kids Dalton and Foster (Ty Simpkins and Andrew Astor) and grandma Lorraine (Barbara Hershey). After the haunting events of the first movie they have moved in an effort to put the past behind them. Unfortunately they can’t escape the ghosts who are attracted to what Josh has—life! Increasingly terrifying encounters with spirits threatens not only Josh’s safety but of everyone who comes into contact with Josh.
The movie makes the mundane—Patrick Wilson suddenly appearing in a doorway offering to take the kids to school—feel weird and off kilter and Rose Byrne, with her delicate features and downturned mouth, does Shock Face like no one else.
All that stuff works well. Wan allows the tension and atmosphere to feed the shocks, which is a good thing, because they aren’t going to emerge on their own from this jumble of a story. Jumping around in time and between the realm of the living and the great beyond, the plot will be confusing to anyone who hasn’t seen the original.
But say what you will about the storytelling, no one else makes mainstream horror films like James Wan. Maybe it’s best to think of “Insidious: Chapter 2” as like taking a walk through a haunted house. The exhilaration comes from the scares, not the walk.