By Gary Murray

Starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne and Barbara Hershey

Written by Leigh Whannell and James Wan

Directed by James Wan

Running time 105 min

MPAA Rating PG-13

Selig Film Rating Matinee

For some reason, I missed Insidious in the theaters.  The 2010 flick was the most successful film of the year when you compare budget to profit.  It also did massive numbers on DVD (which is where I saw it).

The story of a family trying to protect a comatose child from demons hit the right chord with the movie audience right before the summer onslaught began.  It was an April Fools trick of a film that buzzed past the general horror audience.  Insidious Chapter 2 is the sequel.

The film takes place after the events of the first flick but starts with a preamble in 1986.  Young Josh is haunted by a parasite spirit that medium Elise can sense.  In order to protect the young man, she hypnotizes him to forget everything that happened to the youngster.

We then flash-forward to today and moments after the first movie ended.  At the Lambert house, there is the dead body of Elise (Lin Shaye).  The police believe that Josh (Patrick Wilson) killed her and do not believe wife Renai (Rose Byrne) when she says that evil spirits did the deed. The marks on Elise’s neck will prove who the real killer turns out to be.

Since there was a murder at the Lambert house, the family must move in with Grandma Lorraine (Barbara Hershey).  She is a former nurse who now lives the retired life.  Almost as soon as the family is together in the house, weird things start to happen.  Spirits drift from room to room and seem to want something.  Josh puts his boys into his old room with a closet where spirits seems to dwell.

The film then splits into two directions.  One is of Josh being taken over by a spirit of a very evil man.  Josh begins to rot from the inside and becomes paler and paler.  Renai knows that the man in front of her is not her husband but knows of no way to bring him back.  The piano playing by itself may be a clue to rescue.

The second story is of Lorraine and her finding that events that happened to Josh way back in 1986.   There is a connection to her working in the Our Lady of the Angels hospital and the evil that follows the family.  Eventually, Lorraine and a team of paranormal investigators must piece together the clues of years ago to stop the carnage of today.  The film twists the two stories into a solid coherent whole with a ton of violence and mayhem.

To be honest, I’m skeptical of any horror film that is PG-13.  Most of the greatest horror films of the last two decades proudly displayed an R rating.  But, Insidious works on just about every level.  It has all the scares of a haunted house while wrapping itself in the concepts of Poltergeist.  It is a ride more than a film but it is still a very fun ride, full of creaking doors and startling jumps.

Patrick Wilson does his best Jack Nicholson from The Shining with the role of Josh Lambert but still nails the performance.  Just in his stance, he delivers a creepy vibe.  This is a solid acting job of being two characters at the same time.  He is our everyman caught in extraordinary situation.

Rose Byrne is an actress who can do it all. She’s been in comedies, dramas, horror flicks and period pieces throughout her short career.  Here, she is the put upon wife, a role that requires more reaction than action.  She is our surrogate in the film, the person that the flick more generally relates to and the individual who is the stand-in for the audience.

It was great to see Barbara Hershey on screen.  In the 1980s, she was in just about every major film but her work hasn’t been seen by many in the last few years.  She still has a commanding presence on screen and very nearly steals every scene in which she appears.

This episode is made by the same team that did the first chapter–director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell—are both back and in fine form.  They blend spook house scares and paranormal activity into a coherent whole.  It is a twisted web the two weave on audiences.

Insidious Chapter 2 may not win any awards but it should generate some major box office before the onslaught of horror flicks that October generally brings.  In many ways it reminded me of Nightmare on Elm Street 3 Dream Warriors.  If one is looking for cheap thrills on the cinematic stage, this is one not to miss.

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