The haunted-house genre has proved fruitful for Australian filmmaker James Wan, whose low-budget scarers "Insidious" and "The Conjuring" earned generally favorable reviews and combined to gross more than $350 million worldwide. But according to many film critics, Wan's latest such effort, "Insidious: Chapter 2," doesn't have anything new to offer.
In a review for The Times, Robert Abele wrote that Wan and co-writer Leigh Whannell "confidently line up their ducks in a row for more of the same half-shocks, fraught wanderings, horror-repurposed items ... and garish PG-13 apparitions. But after the pleasurable free fall into old-fashioned nightmare artistry that was last summer's 'The Conjuring,' this busy-yet-dull sequel feels like Wan robotically flexing his manipulation of fright-film signposts, an exercise more silly than sinister."
The New York Times' Jeannette Catsoulis called the film "a mess from start to finish" and added, "'Insidious: Chapter 2' is the kind of lazy, halfhearted product that gives scary movies a bad name. From its robotic acting to its generic props (enough already with the self-motivated children's toys), this shoddy sequel, tacked together with the cynicism of a carnival barker, suggests that the director, James Wan, is long overdue for a vacation."
USA Today's Claudia Puig also found the film lazy. She wrote, "'Insidious: Chapter 2' appears to be the sum of the unusable parts from James Wan's recent haunted house feature 'The Conjuring.' Yes, of course it's the sequel to 2010's 'Insidious,' but it seems cobbled together from outtakes. ... [T]here's nothing remotely subtle or sly about this lazy movie."
Justin Lowe of the Hollywood Reporter agreed that the sequel is overly familiar. He said, "In 'Chapter 2,' the filmmakers essentially replicate the same derivative approach employed in the original, stringing together ideas and associations from 'The Exorcist,' 'Poltergeist' and numerous other haunters, this time with a generous dose of 'The Shining' incorporated as well. Setting aside the movie's tediously lame dialogue, self-conscious performances and frequently predicable scares, the narrative's compulsively shifting chronology intermittently manages to engage, although it does little to obscure the distracting shortcomings of both plot and character development."
The San Francisco Chronicle's Peter Hartlaub said, "'Insidious 2' has a few memorable frights, a willing cast and a professional crew behind the camera. But even as it succeeds in the moment, it's hard to get around the fact that the sequel is entirely unnecessary. We'd rather see Wan and his co-conspirators put out something new." That said, one can "at least credit Wan for making quality control a priority."
Not every review has been critical, however. Variety's Scott Foundas, for example, called "Chapter 2" a "modestly scaled and highly pleasurable sequel." He adds, "Wan and Whannell once again spin a ripping good ghost story here. ... They're terrific pastiche artists, freely raiding our collective storehouse of horror-movie memories and arranging them in fresh, unexpected ways. ... [W]here so many sequels seem like mere remakes of their predecessors, with bigger budgets and less imagination, 'Insidious" Chapter 2' feels like a genuine continuation of characters we enjoyed getting to know the first time around, and wouldn't at all mind returning to again."
If audiences agree, we might yet see a "Chapter 3."