This is certainly the summer of James Wan. The Conjuring cost $20 million and has thus far grossed $270 million worldwide, and Insidious 2 cost $5 million and opened at $41 million this weekend.
The Conjuring is a vastly superior film, but Insidious 2 is not altogether bad. It starts off halting and awkward, and its fealty to following up on Insidious is both admirable and clunky. We pick up on the story right after Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) has returned from The Further, having saved his son in the process. As we learn at the end of the first film, however, it is not Wilson, but someone much more sinister who returned in his guise. The film then moves on three tracks – Wilson, in the house, a threat to his wife (Rose Byrne) and kids; his mother (Barbara Hershey) and her investigators, trying to identify the entity that has taken Wilson; and Wilson himself, stuck in The Further, helpless. This all takes some time to queue up, and the speed of it all makes the picture stilted. In particular, poor Byrne is reduced to actually having to try and convince Wilson of the continuation of the terror, and his “Oh, honey, you just have to ignore the evil!” rejoinders are unintentionally funny.
But once it gets rolling, the film regains its balance, delivering some very good scares along the way, and Wan’s weaving of Wilson’s childhood, the first picture and the events we are witnessing is pretty skillful. To Wan’s credit, those scares remain bloodless and gore-free (although the film is too dimly lit).