Screenwriter Leigh Whannell and director James Wan are the money-making duo behind Lionsgate’s “Saw” and its umpteen sequels. They have now become the proud parents of the “Insidious” franchise, which officially earned its stripes with the release of “Insidious: Chapter 2.”
If little thought was spent on this sequel’s title, an equal amount was bestowed upon its story line. A ghost that speaks to humans through two cans connected by a string is one of several novel ideas lost within the film’s narrative, which encompasses three settings that consist of two separate timelines and one alternate reality.
The story centers around the haunting of the Lambert family. Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) is the clan’s astral-projecting dad, passing on his gift to young son Dalton (Ty Simpkins). The film seeks to explain the back story that binds malevolent spirits to the Lamberts, but the poorly executed “why” adds nothing beyond a white-faced woman wearing too much red lipstick.
She has a thing for little boys, drawing them into a netherworld that features red doors, black backgrounds and dry ice vapor.
Attempting to leave the spirits behind, Josh Lambert moves his nervous wife Renai (Rose Byrne) and their other children into a spooky Victorian home belonging to Josh’s mom, Lorraine (Barbara Hershey).
Mediums Elise and Carl (Lin Shaye and Steve Coulter), sometimes aided by mismatched assistants Specs (screenwriter Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), intercede on the Lambert’s behalf.
Steep staircases filmed at a tilt, baby walking chairs that walk sans baby, rows of bloody women covered in sheets and photographs that capture apparitions are some of the devices Wan and Whannel hope will terrify audiences.
Released on Friday the 13th, the film’s PG-13 rating was intended to attract the teens comprising most of the small audience at my screening. Their responses to the “scares” consisted mainly of giggles. The soundtrack liberally borrows the screeching violins from Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” but rather than cue suspense, here they are simply irritating.