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In an attempt to dissect the audience’s pathological obsession with violence, James Waan revolutionised the horror genre by adding a significant element of torture porn violence into his Saw films – racking the bloodletting to utterly depraved levels to seduce audiences with sexualised set pieces of OTT violence. However, this consistent bloodletting, which became nauseous and unnecessary in its sequels, had not sapped the suspenseful atmosphere that Waan quickly become famous for – despite the mediocrity of the storytelling that the scriptwriters so blatantly disregarded.
Hence, Insidious in 2011 was Waan’s return to the suspenseful atmosphere that he contingently manufactured. Eschewing the abovementioned torture porn gimmicks and supernatural conceits – palpable to guarantee cinema goes in their vast numbers – his focus laid primarily in dread and kinesis of camera movements to generate an atmosphere of supernatural suspense. Insidious was the result of the consummate ease that he staged an effective horror tale, which not only embraced the clichés plaguing mainstream horror, but cofounded its audiences for its derivation of scares from a narrative that engaged them on a minimal psychological level.
After the brutal cliff-hanger of the first film, this sequel, in stark contrast, takes its time in setting up back story. Hilariously, in the opening segment, the voice of a deceased character is unconvincingly dubbed onto a younger actress. This particular sequence is a flashback, it appears, where we are finally given the explanation of the Josh’s suppression of his astral projection powers that inadvertently instigated the chaos in the first film.
Shifting to present day, we see Josh’s wife, Renee, conversing with the police under a spotlight (funny, considering the fluorescents that dominate conventional police stations) about the validity of her supporting alibi for a brutal murder at the end the first film. Could it be that Josh’s astral projection powers have resulted not only in homicide but………. whisper it…….possession?
The franchise mythology, so underdeveloped in the original, is deepened to modest effect here. The instalments of interludes that dissect the psychopathological state of the antagonist is intensified by Waan’s surrealistic vision and enthusiasm for grotesque abominations that typify his vision of the afterlife – that is anything but angels and harps. His stocks of scares also remain startlingly adept: Waan is never really short on inspiration when it comes to making his audiences jump with uniform terror that seeps into their mindset, causing a sense of dread throughout.
The style would seem almost refreshing were it not for the convolutions of a multi-stranded narrative that takes some of the lustre of the more honed psychological aspects of the tale. Waan is a little guilty of overegging the story with too many sub-plots. The result is an overcooked narrative force that fragments into three strands: Josh’s mother, Lorraine, in a grotesque expedition; the events in the real world as Renee is relentlessly terrorised by the evading supernatural forces; the climax in ‘The Further’. Compounding matters even further is the loopier aspects of the plot: It appears that the abovementioned flashback itself forms a springboard for time travel theatrics that are unduly redundant in the bigger and broader aspects of the increasingly tangled story.
Consequently, deepening the franchise mythology is a laudable act, but Waan and his team are not adept enough to skilfully juggle multi-stranded plotting with relentless terror and psychological threat to sustain interest throughout. The result is a mixed bag of disjointed theatrics.
In many ways a better movie than the first, but without the element of surprise and the simplicity in many other ways it’s also hopelessly inferior.