‘Insidious 2’ is boring for awhile, then baffling

By Gary Clift

If somebody wanted to make up a Twelve Days of “Insidious 2,” taking the list of descending numbered people and things from the new horror film, they could do a pretty good job. There are, in different time frames and in the living and ghostly worlds, at least four different Joshes. There are more than a dozen murdered brides under dust cloths.

There are three houses furnished as if for the Victorian period. One of those houses is part of a vast abandoned hospital. I think I counted seven rocking horses in a row. There are three realities, two older psychics, and a dead serial killer transvestite in Dad’s body. I thought of the transvestite as Lola.

In short, the audience for this movie is left to drown in complicated detail. But only in the second half of the film. The first half is less complex. But the net result is that viewers will be bored during the first hour and baffled during the second one.

There is one moment sufficiently shocking that it may qualify as scary, and this in the first couple of reels. Waif-like Rose Byrne, who returns in this film to again play the young wife and mother, gets slapped by a woman dressed in a white outfit from the early twentieth century. So to our list we can add one ninety pound, unconscious, Australian actress.

It isn’t until later on in the movie that we are reminded that the visitors from the spirit world can’t actually force anybody living to do anything. Well, that slap forced a brief nap. Later on I suppose we can explain the violent actions of the villain by noting that he’s taken over one of the Joshes’ bodies. Is this a reasonable sounding explanation?

The original movie in the series introduced Renee (Byrne) and the adult real-world Josh (Patrick Wilson), their two boys and baby girl, his mother (played by Barbara Hershey, who has a real life history of accepting the transference of a soul into another body—remember when she was called Barbara Seagull?), mother’s friend the psychic, and the psychic’s two comic-relief friends, the ghost busters).

After the older son, Dalton, got a crack on the head, he went into a coma. During this time a spook who had been stirring things up in the family home took over the kid’s body, leaving Dalton to wander an unlit spirit territory. Luckily his dad had the ability to pass into that territory, to look for and find the kid, and to bring him back to his own body. In the process, though, the psychic died.

In Insidious 2, the spook has gotten into Dad’s body. This possessed, adult, real world Josh loses a tooth (why?) and holds conversations with himself in hallways. We see flashbacks to Josh’s childhood and see Josh in the spirit world both as a kid and as an adult—thus, four Joshes, assuming we don’t count possessed Josh as a fifth. Another psychic is recruited to help the family. He enters the spirit territory and eventually meets the old psychic and Dalton, who has gone back too.

They examine spirit versions of the houses in the real world, even as spex and tech boy, the comic relief, are going through those places. Granny goes to the hospital where she once worked and finds the shrouded brides under cover there, barely decayed, and Lola the murderer under a sheet alongside.

By the end of an hour and a half of this, I was so confused that I discovered what it is they’re talking about when they say “my head was spinning.” I may have swallowed a tooth. The movie ends after Lola in Josh’s adult body chases Renee into one of the cellars and people start popping back out of the spirit world and back into the real world, contemporary Victorian houses.

Now stories don’t have to explain their every detail. But if they are bent on trying, as is the case in “Insidious 2,” they need to provide a decent explanation. If there is a scheme ruling this plot, I couldn’t make it out. Heck, I couldn’t even keep track of all the numbers for my Christmas song.

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