Josh and Renai Lambert (Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne) and their haunted children have returned. And they're still pretty freaked out.
In fact, "returned" isn't really the right word. They remain stuck in their own private hell since this sequel is, true to its title, simply the next chapter in the story; it begins right where the first movie left off, with a momentary breather in the action that sees parents and children, some of whom share the unpleasant gift of being able to leave their bodies to communicate with the dead, fleeing to Josh's childhood home. Now, if you've seen Insidious then you know as well as the Lamberts that running to a new hideout isn't going to shake those ghosts off their trail. They're haunted by entities that have yet to reveal all the secrets of why and how they've chosen to ruin this particular family. Tricky ghosts.
There will be no more plot details revealed here, but what I can say is that the mystery of what was haunting the family, only partially explained in the original, defused that film's sense of fear and dread. Instead, it presented a strange, increasingly silly puzzle, one with odd detours into deadpan humor, that felt incomplete when the final credits rolled. That puzzle (with accompanying jumps and jolts) becomes more complicated this time around, even occasionally confusing, as multiple characters find themselves straddling the real world and the spirit realm where living beings enter through astral projection.
The good news is that everyone's taking themselves a bit more seriously here. And it means that the entire project was either a bold move, a Hobbit-style 3+ hour horror saga meant to be taken on as a back-to-back viewing experience -- with intentional early withholding on the part of director James Wan and writer Leigh Wannell, designed to leave nagging questions and slight disgruntlement that finally finds its missing pieces in this film -- or a pretty awesome save. If they didn't have a second movie in mind while making the first film, then this dizzying almost-resolution (look, ghosts can't be killed, okay?) could stand as a lesson in how to avoid the sequel-as-remake trap. It's as satisfyingly ambitious and ornate as most sequels are numbingly simple and lazy. It's also creepy as hell. If Insidious felt like half a movie to you, too, here's the rest of what you were looking for.
STAR RATING: 3.5/5