James Wan's Insidious: Chapter 2, once again co-written by Leigh Whannell, begins with a scene that fills us in on what happened to Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) before the events that took place in the first movie. We get a glimpse back to his childhood and witness firsthand a younger Elise Rainier (Lindsay Seim) trying to help him and his mother, Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) figure out just what exactly is going on. From there, we move to the present day where Josh and his wife Renai (Rose Byrne) have taken their two sons, Dalton (Ty Simpkins) and Foster (Andrew Astor) and moved from their home into Lorraine's place. They want to put their haunted past behind them and move on with their lives, which under the circumstances is completely understandable.
After the move, however, things start to take a decidedly dark turn for the Lamberts. Renai starts to wonder if it wasn't Patrick who killed Elise (Lin Shaye) while both Dalton and Foster start to wonder who or what is in the house with them. Lorraine and Renai both start seeing a woman in white wandering the halls, an aggressive spirit who seems to have a connection to someone in the family. When things go from bad to worse, they call in some help from paranormal investigators Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) who, along with Elise's old partner Carl (Steve Coulter), start to uncover the truth behind the haunting, Elise's death and how all of this ties into the Lamberts' past.
The filmmakers behind this second film in the series (a third is already in the works at the time of this writing) aren't really treading any new ground here in terms of style or scares but the script does succeed in giving the supernatural element of the events a somewhat human grounding. The way in which the storylines of the past and the present tie into one another works fairly well and also serves to provide some welcome background information on the Lambert family that, again, ties into the reasoning behind the events that haunt them so. Although this often times feels like a string of jump scares and stylized visuals there's enough meat on the script to keep things interesting. For the most part, the movie works quite well.
Performances are pretty strong across the board here. Lin Shaye is great in her role and while it ‘s weird hearing her instantly recognizable voice coming out of Lindsay Seim playing the 1986 based version of Elise, both actresses are good in their respective parts. Once again Whannell and Sampson are amusing as the two paranormal investigators, adding a little bit of humor to the movie which is otherwise quite a dark affair, while Steve Coulter, reprising his role as Carl, is quite good here too. Most of the heavy lifting is done by Wilson and Byrne, however, the former actually getting the chance to take his character into some decidedly unusual territory in the later part of the movie. Wilson handles both sides of the Patrick character well here, while Byrne is convincing as the anxious wife and mother who is understandably conflicted about how to deal with all of this. Barbara Hershey is strong as the grandmother to the two boys that seems to be the conduit for much of the activity, equal parts strong and concerned, she delivers fine work here.
Wan employs a whole lot of interesting style here, using a lot of vibrant primary colors to help create and otherworldly atmosphere in a few key scenes to nice effect. At times you definitely get the impression he's trying to channel Bava or Argento. There are also some excellent locations employed here, the abandoned hospital being the one stand out as it's got a lot of really excellent, eerie atmosphere. By the time it's all done lots of things have made loud noises, lots of things have jumped out at you and the film has borrowed from both Psycho, The Shining and more recently Hammer's The Woman In Black in large amounts, but that doesn't stop Insidious: Chapter 2 from entertaining. It's a fun horror picture, one of those movies you watch with the lights off and the sound up and big bowl of popcorn at the ready.
Insidious: Chapter 2 looks great in this AVC encoded 2.39.1 widescreen 1080p high definition transfer. While a lot of the movie is shot with that sort of cool blue tint that Wan is known for using, this isn't at the expense of detail and it actually works well in the context of the film's atmosphere. Detail is frequently striking and particularly revelatory in facial close up shots, while medium and long distance shots fare almost as well. Black levels are very strong, which is important considering how much of the movie's finale takes place in the dark, while flesh tones look lifelike and accurate. Texture is great, you'll notice this not only on clothing but also in the wooden furniture in the various rooms and in abandoned hospital scene where things appear appropriately dusty and decayed. Shot on digital video, this digital to digital transfer obviously doesn't suffer from any print damage or grain and the well encoded transfer is free of compression artifacts or edge enhancement issues. All in all, the picture quality here is excellent.
The main audio option on the disc is a good one, a fantastic one, actually, as the English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track on this disc is killer. Optional subtitles are provided in English, English SDH and Spanish. For a film as reliant on stings and jump scares as this one, it's important that the low end be strong and there are certainly no problems here in that regard as bass is plentiful and powerful. Dialogue is always crisp and clear and there are loads of great ambient effects used in the quieter and more dramatic scenes to keep you on your toes and plenty more used in the more action intensive scenes to heighten tension and provide some fun scares. A Spanish language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track is also included.
Extras start off with Peripheral Vision: Behind The Scenes (15:23), which is basically a featurette that includes input from Wan, Whannell, Byrne, Shaye Wilson and a few others in which they talk about what the intent was with this sequel, how it adds to the mythos of the first movie and more. There's some behind the scenes footage here as well as some insight into the writing, the effects and the overall tone and feel of the movie. Ghostly Transformations (7:19) takes us into the world of the special effects used in the movie, in which they talk about the influence of Carnival Of Souls on the first movie and how they tried to do something a bit more realistic with this sequel. Here we learn about why the Woman In White looks the way that she does, how that look was created and how the makeup effects for some of the other ghostly characters that appear in the movie were handled.
Haunted Hospital: On Location (8:51) is a piece that examines what it was like shooting on location in the infamous Linda Vista Hospital. Reportedly haunted, we learn the history of the building, we hear from people who have explored the grounds and we learn of some of its history as a movie location too. This is pretty interesting stuff, and we get a look at the location out of context which is kind of cool.
Leigh Whannell's Insidious Journal (7:44) is, as it sounds, a collection of Whannell's video journal entries made on set during the production. It's mostly just an assembly of random BTS bits through his perspective but it does show what it's like working under Wan as an actor and the different worlds that exist as far as writing a movie is concerned compared to acting in a movie is concerned. Work In Progress: On Set Q&A (23:30 is a question and answer session with stars Barbara Hershey, Lin Shaye and Patrick Wilson as well as with Jason Blum, James Wan, and Leigh Whannell in which they talk about their experiences working on the picture (which was unfinished at the time this was conducted). Topics covered here include what the intent was in creating this sequel, reprising their characters from the first movie, what it was like working with Wan and more.
Insidious: Spectral Sightings (12:19) is a three part web series in which Specs and Tucker further their careers are paranormal investigators with the help of a surprise guest. It's shot POV style, kind of like an episode of Ghost Adventures, but it works well and it ties into the feature rather nicely. Additionally we get a few previews for other Sony titles (though no trailer for the feature itself), menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release, there's also a DVD version included as well as a download code for a digital copy.
Insidious: Chapter 2 isn't a particularly subtle film, in fact towards the end it goes pretty over the top (and not necessarily to its benefit), but it definitely is an enjoyable and entertaining horror movie made with plenty of style that showcases some solid performances. A few memorable set pieces just might stick with you after it's finished and the use of sound and color in the film is frequently very impressive. Sony's Blu-ray debut isn't jam packed with extra features but it does contain a few interesting supplements as well as excellent audio and video quality. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.