Insidious continues bland horror trends

A lot of modern horror is garbage, but Insidious: Chapter 2’s soul-crushing monotony stands apart.

The film picks up right after its predecessor, with Josh (Patrick Wilson) possessed by a vicious ghost. Josh becomes a nexus for interaction between the physical and the astral. Spooky antics ensue.

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Insidious: Chapter 2 is extremely dull. All scares have a set formula: someone says something mildly creepy, then there’s a smash cut with sudden music. It happens once every five minutes and it gets old before the previews are over. The entire production falls flat under this boring, archaic paradigm.

And that’s really sad. Whannell wrote himself into a corner in the first movie. After 75 minutes of genuinely creepy nonsense, he didn’t know how to end the story and so the main characters called the Ghostbusters. The film suffered the rest of the way.

In Chapter 2, Whannell wrote himself out of that corner, managing to reestablish the haunted house problem that was supposedly solved and adding depth to the ghost possessing Josh. Delving into (well, scraping) child abuse and serial murder, the backstory’s implied crimes provide the only real thrills in the movie.

The movie is a perfect epitome of the spiral its principle creative minds have been in for some time now. Wan and Whannell broke into the horror scene with 2000’s Saw, and neither of them have worked on anything special since.

Recently, Wan’s films have become reliant on the same combination of paranormal experts, jump scares and stolen scenes from the classics I’d rather be watching. Whannell tried his had at children’s book adaptation in 2010’s God-awful Legend of the Guardians, but has mostly stuck to the same horror titles Wan has — horror titles that are made bland by their repeated use of the same tropes played the same ways.

The Insidious series also adheres to producer Jason Blum’s fallback cache of tropes, with the arrogant patriarch ignoring the problem for most of the movie and an overflow of subplots giving the film an odd soap-opera feel.

Blum has produced nine horror films since 2010 after producing 2007’s smash hit Paranormal Activity, a movie that should have changed American horror movies irrevocably. But a run through of the titles — Insidious, Dark Skies, Sinister — tells us that everything he’s done has followed a strict formula that’s not conducive at all to horror.

For all of them, Insidious: Chapter 2 is just something to stick at the end of a conga line of dull and near-identical horror movies. The saddest thing, and the real root of the problem, is that these three are hailed as leading lights for their initial success and because of that everything they touch is supposedly innovative and daring. As much as the genre could benefit from the minds that made some of the true horror classics of the ’00s, it’s clear these three just aren’t up for actual creativity anymore.

Joshua Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist, journalism and film student at the University of North Texas and a senior staff writer for the NT Daily. He may be a genius, but he is not an architect.  For questions, rebuttals and further guidance about cinema, you can reach him at reelentropy@gmail.com. At this point, I’d like to remind you that you shouldn’t actually go to movies and form your own opinions. That’s what I’m here for. Be sure to come back later in the week for a review of Prisoners.

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