Insidious Chapter 2
I have a very trusted barometer I use for just how scary a horror movie is: how many sleepless nights it gives me. By that barometer, 2011's Insidious was easily one of the scariest movies I've seen in years, giving me three sleepless nights before I got over it. Following that, then, Insidious Chapter 2 wasn't nearly as scary as the first one, resulting in only one sleepless night for me, and that sleeplessness could also fairly be attributed to a night of drinking an abundance of cocktails made with a Red Bull substitute. But just because it wasn't as scary as it's predecessor in no way means it was a bad movie; quite the contrary, actually. And I'll tell you why, and stay almost entirely spoiler-free while I do so. You're welcome for that, by the way.
First though, why wasn't it scary? The answer is through no fault of its own but instead due to what I call The Law of Diminishing Returns of Horror Sequels. What scares us about horror movies... and I'm not talking about the cheap jump scares here... is the unknown; we're afraid because we don't know what's going on. Freddy is terrifying in the first Nightmare on Elm Street because we don't know what his deal is. He becomes less scary once we know what's going on. The same can be said about just about any horror franchise, and Insidious Chapter 2 is no exception. We know the ghosts from the Further are trying to inhabit the father and son is this family so they can live again, and we know they're after those two because they have the power to "travel" into The Further while they sleep. That knowledge takes some of the fright out of it, and if you're anything like me, most of the rest is taken out by the knowledge that this can't possibly happen to you (because let's be honest, the reason The Exorcist is still to this day possibly the most terrifying movie ever is because, if you're remotely spiritual, you believe somewhere in your mind that shit can happen...). But again, just because the fear isn't there doesn't necessarily mean the sequel is bad.
And Insidious Chapter 2 isn't bad at all, partly because it seemed like the writers and director knew that with the mystery behind the fear gone they'd have to focus on something different to make a good movie. Instead of focusing on the question of what's going on and how it's happening, they focus on why and explore the mystery behind events. Instead of just trying to make us afraid of the spirit that was trying to possess the father in the first installment, they look into who, what, and why that is, and they tie it into the first installment in very tight ways some of them very surprising and satisfying. Which isn't to say the movie is perfect; they try to throw some humor into it in the form of two of the supernatural experts and in almost every instance it falls flat, serving not to amuse but to distract and it just breaks up the tension. But I can forgive that because the rest of the movie makes up for it.
It's probably obvious I really enjoyed this installment, probably more than I enjoyed any horror sequel in a long time. I just have one real gripe with it, and here's where the one spoiler I'll throw at you comes in: this horrifying, Tiptoe-Through-The-Tulips motherfucker wasn't in it...
...or was he? Insidious Chapter 3 is happening, after all.
And now, because I can't let that be the last image any of us sees, here's future Hollywood It Girl and star of my favorite movie of the year so far, The Spectacular Now, the adorable and amazingly talented Shailene Woodley.