Insidious: Chapter 2 fails where so many brainy horrors do: it’s too cerebral to be scary.
The second chapter of supernatural horror saga Insidious was released last week (on Friday the 13th), and as well as being James Wan’s last ever horror film, it also serves as proof that simplicity wins when trying to scare. Wan announced that he was done with horror during an interview for Moviefone. However, after the brilliant The Conjuring, which hit UK cinemas in August, I can’t help but feel a little let down by Wan’s final contribution to the horror genre in the form of Insidious: Chapter 2.
Wan falls foul of the idea that complexity = a great film, and Insidious 2’s convoluted plot is a total mind-fuck
In most respects, Insidious 2 is on par with the first film, if not better. But one thing is missing, and that’s the feeling of genuine fear and horror that was so prevalent throughout the first. Wan falls foul of the idea that complexity = a great film, and Insidious 2’s convoluted plot is a total mind-fuck. It’s got what seems to be Doctor Who-esque time travel, a killer transvestite with his own complicated back story and so many stories going on at once that you end up so confused that you forget to be scared.
Although critics that fawn over films like The Matrix and Pulp Fiction and shun anything that, God forbid, is merely a bit of mindless entertainment will disagree, horror films often work better when they’re less clever. Successfully scary horror films work on a visceral level because they tap into our fears rather than tease our intellect and make us think.
Intellectual horror films put viewers in a position of power; they’re then not likely to be scared
‘Clever’ horrors often turn out to be parodies (Scream and The Cabin in the Woods are two apt examples), because intellectual horror films invite audiences to use their intelligence, as well as knowledge of the horror genre and all its clichés, and in turn they are put in a position of power. If the viewer has any kind of power they’re not likely to be scared; Scream and The Cabin in the Woods are two prime examples of how horror and clever don’t mix – while they’re both good films, they’re definitely not scary. For horror to genuinely scare the audience, it needs to tap into our fears and not make us think too hard.
James Wan has a talent for making genuinely creepy, atmospheric horror films, so you’d be forgiven for expecting Insidious 2 to be another crap-yourself-and-shower-the-cinema-in-popcorn affair, but sadly it doesn’t deliver. Patrick Wilson delivers a terrifyingly believable performance and Rose Byrne does another outstanding job of looking like a gormless deer stuck in the headlights, but overall I couldn’t help feeling cheated.
Frankly who goes to see a horror not wanting to be scared?
When I left the cinema after watching the first Insidious film, I had images of that freaky demon playing on my mind for days. Insidious induced genuine chair-gripping fear (sadly lacking in most contemporary horror films), so why wasn’t I the slightest bit scared of the sequel? James Wan has proven himself to be a highly talented horror director, but Insidious 2 didn’t feel like his best work. Frankly who goes to the cinema to see a horror not wanting to be scared?
Unless Wan was merely trying to prove that washing his hands of the horror genre is a good idea after all, Insidious: Chapter 2’s lack of scary seems wholly down to the more intelligent (and more confusing) plot, which makes you think so hard your brain has no room for fear. It seems a shame for Wan to leave horror on such a letdown. Perhaps he’d have been better off washing his hands of the genre straight after The Conjuring and ended on a high instead.
All images: FilmDistrict; Stage 6 Films