Saturday, 11 January 2014



Most of the time there's very little preparation needed for watching a movie: you just take the disc out of the case or the LoveFilm envelope and pop it in the player, or click "Play" on the internet stream. Most of the time it's very easy. But, bearing in mind that this is the sequel to Insidious, one of the most genuinely frightening horror movies of the last few years that had me leaving the lounge light on for several days afterwards, I had to take precautions. I relocated to behind my sofa, I had my keyboard switched on and set to 12-string guitar so I could play a few twangy chords if I got too freaked out, I had a CD of Peter Cook monologues ready in the stereo so I could pause the film and alleviate the terror with some nasal-voiced comedy whimsy, I had the curtains slightly open so I could look away and see the non-scary car park and non-horrific railway platforms outside. In short, I wanted to be able to diffuse and defuse the film's horror as much as I could. Maybe that's why I didn't actually see this one on its cinema release.

Was it all necessary for Insidious: Chapter 2? In the event I ended up watching it the same way I watched The Conjuring - through my fingers and frequently looking away from the screen so I would only catch the scary stuff peripherally and "accidentally". I didn't need any of the distractions I'd set up and so far my sleepless nights have been down to flu rather than onscreen horrors. It picks up from the end of the original, where Josh (Patrick Wilson) has returned from The Further, a kind of alternative dimension hellscape - but his corporeal form has been taken over by the spirit of a dead serial killer looking to resume his old habits. Can Josh get his own body back, and save his family from the maniac even as the comedy ghostbusters stumble towards the truth via clues from the spirit of the late Elise (Lin Shaye)?

Writer Leigh Whannell and director James Wan's genius in these films isn't just the timing of the horror stabs - which is immaculate - but their specific nature. It's not just a noise off-screen, it's the particular noise: a distorted piano, a toddler walker, Tiptoe Through The Tulips. It's not just that there's a ghost, it's the look, the movement, the sudden appearance with or without a crash of strings from Joseph Bishara's terrific score. (It's also that those horror stabs aren't cheap, easy "Boo!" moments for a cheap, easy scare.) Yes, it is at heart silly: no sane person, whether they believe in bodysnatching ghosts or not, is going to go clumping round the spooky abandoned hospital, and then round the spooky abandoned house of the local serial killer, in the middle of the night. But it's not so silly that we ever stop taking it seriously, or that it ever stops treating its audience as grownups.

In truth, we probably don't need an Insidious 3: the Lambert story is now done, and any continuations would probably concern Lin Shaye's paranormal investigator sidekicks even though that would take it closer to The Conjuring's territory rather than Insidious'. But I'll happily take Insidious 3, 4 and 79 over further entries in, say, the worthless Paranormal Activity saga, the biggest horror movie franchise of the century so far, which shares a producer (Oren Peli) with the Insidious films but is now borderline unwatchable. Both Insidious movies are proper films, superbly crafted and truly scary films that had me jumping and cowering and (in the case of the first film) blurting out rude words in the Crawley Cineworld. Granted Insidious 2 isn't quite up with the first for sheer power, but still superbly frightening and thoroughly enjoyable. Heartily recommended.



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