I’m going to try and do something different with this review than I typically do the others. I love my bullet points, but I feel like it would make more sense if I did them after the Main Meat, so be sure to let me know which format you like best.
However, to keep things interesting, I’m going to include the trailer for those reading this review, my synopsis, and info about when the movie was made as bullet points before the main meat.
Synopsis: While this movie is so directly inspired by the first they literally steal scenes from it to make this sequel work, the concept is an entirely new one; it’s not the house that’s haunted. It’s Josh.
Year Made/director: 2013, James Wan
I wouldn’t say I hated this movie, but I also wouldn’t say I enjoyed it. If I could give it a subtitle, it would be “Insidious: 2 much for one movie” see what I did there?
There’s SO much going on. Almost as if the writer had an idea but didn’t know how to get there in a concise way, so he took a million different paths and avenues to do it.
What happened in this movie was that we basically found out that the woman who was haunting Josh was actually a man that was raised in an abusive house. Why he was selected for this torture, we don’t know because it’s not like he lived in Parker’s old house or something.
This guy happened to jump into Josh’s body when he was on his was back from The Further from the first film. He then killed Elise because that’s what he was basically raised to do by his shitty mother.
The whole film is split between two main storylines. One in which Renai is being terrorized in her house by fake Josh. The other is comprised of Elise’s paranormal investigators, Lorraine, and some new dude named Carl. We’re not sure where Carl came from, but he’s seen in the first scene with Elise, so I assume he’s just another medium we never found out about because no one wants to get second opinions in this film.
By the way, the scene we open with has some of the worst and most unnecessary line dubbing I’ve ever seen. How do you solve the problem of hiring a 30 year old woman to play young Elise? Dub the 70 year old Elise’s voice over hers. Good call.
This movie made me mad in general and I’m sad to say I think this was where the series declined. The acting is okay, but the lighting is muddy, the story goes all over the place, and the premise could have been solved by having a simple conversation. I don’t remember where I saw this, but someone once said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “If the main tension of your movie/book/show could be resolved with one single conversation, you should work on your prose more and revise it.”
This movie does that and it’s very frustrating to watch. On top of that, it’s shaky cam central, like the person who did the camera work was experiencing their own personal earthquake the entire time.
I realize it’s a horror movie, but there’s a limit. It’s been reached. Want to see what I mean? Grab a barf bag, then watch this clip.
P.S. it’s also worth mentioning, one of my favorite instances of stunt doubles on camera can be found in this clip. It’s quite wonderful.
It’s also rife with stupid jump scares that are either not scary or predictable. I don’t know what went so wrong with this film, but I wish I could pinpoint it. My best guess is that because Wan and Whannell didn’t anticipate making a sequel, they were kinda forced into making it and therefore didn’t give it their best effort.
This film also had a different editor, and I really think that made a difference. It’s especially apparent in the beginning of the film where they use old clips from the first film (something they do too much, if you ask me) to lead into this one. The quality, lighting, and writing shifts significantly and it’s so obvious it’s like a bad jump cut.
Sorry, I got off topic there a bit. The two storylines. Eventually they do converge, but the first happens with Renai. Josh, and the kids, mind you, we find out this kids’ names, but they basically still don’t exist. Josh is acting like a maniac, Renai is running around the house screaming, and Dalton is having very scary dreams no one is addressing.
The other is a bit more involved so I’m going to break it down for you. It involves the paranormal investigators, Josh’s mom Lorraine, and Carl.
It all starts when the investigators are looking around what I assume is Elise’s house. They wander into a room she always kept locked and discover a sort of psychic’s den. The gas mask contraption sits on a dummy in the corner, there’s red everywhere, and a very fancy table with chairs around it.
In a closet to the side, the boys discover some VHS tapes, one of which has Josh’s name on it. When they pop it in, they see the recording from the beginning of the film and notice something weird on the tape. After they enhance the image, they see it’s adult Josh. They tell Lorraine about it and she’s all like “man, I wish Elise were here” so they give each other a knowing look and contact Carl.
Now, Carl is, like I said, another medium, but he used to work with Elise. I don’t know the dynamic of they’re relationship, but apparently they’re friendly to each other.
So Carl has these dice he uses to contact people. They’re very unscientific and strange, but everyone takes them as fact without asking questions because that’s how this series goes.
Carl tries to contact Elise and is successful. However, because it’s dice, there’s no evidence to suggest it’s actually Elise coming through.
The dice then lead the team to a hospital where Lorraine used to work. There we hear the story of Parker Crane, a man admitted to the ICU for attempting to castrate himself. In a flashback scene, we see Josh’s mother take him to work with her, bring him into Crane’s room, and putz around with machines. This is not only unprofessional, but also stupid. Crane then attacks Josh and requires several nurses to save him.
As they traverse the hospital, they come to the records room, find Parker’s file, which really shouldn’t be available in an abandoned hospital, but whatever, and find his address. Carl points to it, says “there’s something there,” and the next thing you know, they’re at Parker’s house. It’s also abandoned, still fully furnished and covered in cobwebs.
The group experiences a few apparitions, one of which is Parker dressed as a girl, stating his mother will have him kill them if they don’t get out. Though this scene, given what we know so far, is pretty descriptive, we get a scene later on digging deeper into the details. Parker’s mom wanted a girl, so she dressed him as one and brainwashed him into thinking his name was Marilyn. This then turns into him dressing as a woman to kill victims for literally no reason and store them on church pews in a hidden room of his house. Yeah, I don’t know why.
This entire trail of exhaustion serves to tell us that Parker is the one who’s making Josh crazy and murderous. In the tussle that happens when Carl confronts Parker, he’s stabbed and sent into The Further where he meets up with Josh’s spirit and Elise’s. The three go back in time to when licky dude was attacking the house from the first movie, then to the part where Josh was a kid. The fact that this happens in The Further allows the movie to get away with not explaining timelines, but it’s fine.
What I hated about this was that the quality from the scenes they used from the first movie compared to the quality of the new scenes was so starkly different. It made it seem like they were cheating.
Also, licky dude is a vampire I think, Elise tells him to go to hell and shines a light in his face which then starts burning, so I hope they explore that avenue in the future. We still don’t find out who the guy is though. I only call him licky dude because after the seance in the first film, he tries to lick Renai’s face.
Then, because I guess they thought the first movie’s plot was so great they just had to do it again, Dalton offers to go save his father in The Further.
Once they’ve all found each other, they come back and the day is saved. The final scene, I assume, leads into the next film. The paranormal investigators and the spirit of Elise visit a girl’s house, Elise sees something we can’t, and the movie ends.
Overall I was impressed that they furthered the plot and the movie became halfway decent, but I wasn’t very happy to see the shift in quality. They didn’t do themselves any favors by cutting from one scene to the next the way they did in the beginning.
Also, this movie had a lot more music in it and that made it feel really cheesy.
Rating: I’m going to say “Meh” because I have a sinking feeling this series is going to get much worse.
Favorite Death: My favorite death in this film is only a half death. At one point, Parker, still in Josh’s body, stabs Carl as he’s trying to get to the bottom of this strange phenomenon with his stupid dice. He is then transported into The Further, a place you can’t go unless you can astral project or you’re dead.
Once he, Elise, and Josh have completed their mission to bring the real Josh back to his body, Elise goes “Oh Carl, you can go too, I felt your heartbeat when I hugged you earlier, you’re still alive, bro.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but this is either shitty writing to include Carl, a brand new character eager to make his mark in this series, OR Carl is actually immortal. There is absolutely no in between here. It has to be one or the other.
I thought it was hilarious because he doesn’t even acknowledge the fact that The Further has some pretty specific rules.
Funniest Part: Oh man, there are so many parts to this movie that made me laugh, but I think the funniest, especially given the context that the writer and director had NO plans for a sequel when they made the first film was that when Elise, Carl, and Josh are in The Further, there’s some kind of time loop where they can see licky dude in the house they used to live in.
Remember from the last review where I was talking about the doors and windows opening, alarms going off, and Patrick Wilson refusing to grab a weapon until it was all nearly over?
Well, that’s the scene they used. Apparently, in the first film, Josh was trying to stop licky dude from attacking his family in some kind of time loop. However, because we know how time works, this entire scene never needed to happen. It’ all happened in the past, so it’s not like Josh could have actually stopped anything. If he had, it undoubtedly would have changed the entire outcome of the series too. They never would have moved, Josh never would have gone to save Dalton, hell, at that point, they hadn’t even met Elise.
It’s a nightmare but I laughed my way through it because no one seems to understand the implications of time travel in films so they just do things with awe factor like include unexplained scenes from the first movie to make you think what you’re watching is some kind of revelation.
What they did right: James Wan, Leigh Whannell, and Oren Peli were all still part of the production team. I honestly feel bad tearing this movie apart because I love them all, yes, despite my review of Paranormal Activity from last year. They make a great team.
Also, Patrick Wilson was STELLAR in this movie. His acting was so good, I knew from the second I saw him something was off. He had an eerie smile, he carried himself differently, went through an entire emotional and mental crisis on his own. He had a cross-dressing vengeful spirit inside of him and it showed.
Thoughts from Interviews:
An interesting question the interviewer asked Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson in this interview was “you’re both par of this…Blumhouse movement to bring back the traditional horror film in a genre overrun by gore. How does that feel?”
Before I tell you what they said, might I just add that there is gore galore in movie number four (that rhymed a little too much). So keep that in mind.
They both said it was great and mentioned that they appreciated that Wan and Whannell reinvented the genre to make it more old school without language and violence. To be honest, I hadn’t even noticed that! I appreciate that too now that I’m thinking about it.
Patrick states “I like not pandering to the lowest common denominator of throwing in something gross just to think that scares people.”
The interviewer then goes on to say she thinks the film portrays a sophisticated view of marriage. I guess I can agree with that, despite everything they do stay together, but the first movie captured that way better than this one. In this film, Renai is seen running around the house, screaming and being scared most of the time. She barely does anything.
Patrick then says “you don’t need to see the first movie to get this one” and I don’t think I’ve disagreed with anything more. Nothing in this film would make sense without seeing the first film first.
I had to look really hard to find an interview with either James or Leigh but eventually found one where just Leigh is asked what the approach to this movie looked like versus the first. Leigh says, and I’m paraphrasing here because, like me, Whannell is an excellent writer but not so much a good talker. “I think we had to take it into almost a different genre. [one of the staples of the] haunted house genre [is] family moves into a house, don’t know what’s going on; they learn what’s going on. We’re starting a film with a bunch of characters that know what’s going on….so we had to really -the film and almost take it into the genre of like, a supernatural domestic thriller.”
Yep, that sums it up pretty well.
I also highly recommend watching this video because all of the actors talk about paranormal experiences they had and they’re pretty great.
Finally, I was able to dig up an interview with James AND Leigh about this film.
They stayed true to the fact that they never anticipated a sequel when asked here and Whannell said it’s because “we’re superstitious…we’re just hoping that whatever film we’re working on…does okay. It’s really putting the cart before the horse to think of a sequel.”
Otherwise they chatted about how it was in its own genre, and how it’s creepy because they like using the things they’re scared of and they have an instinctual way of understanding what makes people scared. Nothing I haven’t covered before.
(At around 25 minutes) When Specs and Tucker analyze the footage of young Josh, the “Panasonic” VCR logo has been worn away in places so that it reads “Panic” instead.
(At around 22 minutes) When Specs and Tucker enter Elise’s house, there is an African Tribal painting hanging on the wall. It is the same painting seen hanging in Daniel’s study in Paranormal Activity 2 (2010) and in the Grandmother’s house in Paranormal Activity 3 (2011).
During the last scene of the film, as Specs and Tucker arrive at the door of a family in seeming distress, a little girl sees Elise now in her ghost form. As Specs and Tucker explain to the parents who they are, Elise goes inside the house and approaches another girl who is in an apparent coma, and begins to speak to her. She then hears a sort of rusty crackling noise and when looking behind the girl, sees something horrible and gasps. The noise she hears is that of the Lipstick Face Demon from the first movie, moving his claws. For a long time before the third chapter was announced to be a prequel, fans who understood this were excited to see the return of said entity of the further, making a return for the third film.
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