Written by: Leigh Whannell
Directed by: James Wan
James Wan (he of the creepy puppet) is having some fun. Already with one Conversed foot out of the horror game (he is next in charge of Dom Toretto in “Fast & Furious 7”) Wan is laying back a little, playing fast and lazy a little, and giggling a lot. You can see him pulling focus with a pipe full of peyote. He is too Lars von Trier by half. The experience is … beguiling. “Insidious: Chapter 2” is a unique showcase in itself, tethered to a story it refuses to reveal until it is well ready and laced with some legitimate PG-13 scares along the way.
Cave-crawling through his characters’ psyches, astral planes, and abandoned hospitals (not to mention the tacky-as-hell home that serves as the playground of bumps and BOOs, interior design by Liza Manelli around “Cabaret”, it would seem) Wan isn’t sure if he is playing a prank on you, on the genre, or on his studio. Maybe all of them. “Chapter 2” is, believe it or not, a black, absurdist comedy with its humor worn garishly on its sleeve.
It is not subtle. Time travel. Transgender serial killers. Castration. And a reading room littered with VHS tapes and a male mannequin wearing only a gas mask (being this is the “Saw” auteur we are disappointed the mannequin doesn’t get up at the end –Ed.) Meta? Macabre? Or a horror hound bored by his own genre? Tired of playing fetch. You wonder if Wan as ever seen a Ty West movie. The experience will polarize the audience, and I, weakly maybe, ended up right down the middle.
Flaws abound. The Oren Peli-ness of “Chapter 2” is felt more deeply, his monomaniacal found-footage DNA aesthetic sneaking into frames and stealing away with the tone at times. And Rose Byrne has become a cipher by this point (without spoiling anything it is inferred by the final scene that she may not return for the next seven sequels; you can bet Peli will insist upon them).
“Chapter 2” is a self-aware horror movie for a post-“American Horror Story” audience. It seems scared to death – not of its Mother of Death – but of boring the audience and what results is a wildly uneven kaleidoscope of aw schucks f*(k it humor and terror that reaches out to scratch your head instead of grip you by the throat. It is not eliciting scares so much as “WTF!” tweets.