Posts Tagged ‘Possession’

The Damned – 5

January 14, 2015 Leave a comment

Director – Victor Garcia

Cast – Peter Facinelli, Sophia Myles, Nathalia Ramos, Carolina Guerra, Sebastian Martinez, Gustavo Angarita, Juan Pablo Gamboa

Release Year – 2014

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Don’t you just love stories where unsuspecting know-it-alls believe they are doing a good deed, only to find out that their deed proves to be the worst possible decision they could have made? I love those stories, and that is the case with The Damned. When a group of family and friends barely survive a flash flood, they beg for refuge in a secluded inn. They find a young girl locked in the basement, and without pause they let her free…unknowingly releasing an ancient spirit that will consume them all.

The screenplay comes written by Thirteen Ghosts writer Richard D’Ovidio, and shares a story credit with David Higgins (Burning Bright). The events come rolling in pretty quick, with the traveling band of naïve individuals ignoring the pleas of a local police officer and suffering a dangerous crash when their vehicle is swept away by the tremendous rainwater. They wind up at the hotel pretty early, and right from the get-go we are informed that there is something very “off” about the place. There have been no guests in 30 years, the phone lines have been cut, and it is obvious the caretaker, Felipe, is not keen to strangers and does not want them snooping around. Sure enough, they snoop around and let the girl out at the 28 minute mark, sealing their fate. From then on out the horror creeps and eventually develops into a possession film with nowhere to run but plenty of space to die. The writers include an interesting element for the possession, where the only way you can become possessed is if you kill the possessed person. Naturally, one would say “well don’t kill the person”, however the person is still trying to kill you, or someone you love, so in a sense there are situations where you have no choice but to make the kill and leave yourself as the possessed individual. I did not necessarily enjoy this method, as I prefer more typical methods of possession (they’re creepier), but I’ll give credit for being different.

So how is the horror? It’s OK. It’s a possession film, which is cool, but as I mentioned earlier the possession scenes aren’t as creepy as standard possession tactics. Those possessed talk in cheesy demonic voices and eventually develop a decayed look, but it appears that only happens when they get angry, which is silly. We are provided plenty of kills, but sadly some of them occur offscreen and are nowhere near as gory as one would expect for such a film in the possession / Spanish sub-genres – both known for good gore.

Mirrors 2 and Hellraiser: Revelations director Victor Garcia directs this piece, and he a fair job. The atmosphere is great and he sets the tone early with gloomy cinematography (exposure, desaturation) and solid sets for the home and underground prison. When the horror gets going I felt his execution should have been better. The voices were too cheesy (not the good kind) and the look of the possessed was not the least bit scary, or cool. His kill sequences were pretty tame as well, with little gore and seldom were they filmed in a frontal fashion. There was much potential for good horror here, but it failed to surface.

Overall, The Damned is another mediocre flick out there that you should pass over for better efforts.

Rating: 5/10


At the Devil’s Door – 6

January 7, 2015 Leave a comment

Director – Nicholas McCarthy

Cast – Catalina Sandino Moreno, Naya Rivera, Ashley Rickards

Release Year – 2014

Reviewed by John of the Dead

I am sure we have all seen numerous films where a strange person shows up to someone’s front door, they let them in with good will, and the decision turns out to be a disastrous one. On the surface it looked like At The Devil’s Door would be this type of film, but I was wrong. While something similar does occur, writer/director Nicholas McCarthy (The Pact) delivers a truly unique experience that is unlike the majority of horror films we see these days. With such a story comes a few faults that kept it from greatness, but thanks to mostly-positive direction At The Devil’s Door provides a few good spooks.

When ambitious young real estate agent Leigh is asked to sell a home with a checkered past, she crosses paths with a disturbed girl whom she learns is the runaway daughter of the couple selling the property. When Leigh tries to intervene and help her, she becomes entangled with a supernatural force that soon pulls Leigh’s artist sister into its web – and has sinister plans for both of them.

McCarthy’s story begins with an engaging intro where a young girl makes the hasty decision to sell her soul to the Devil. The man who aids her in this transformation informs her that “he” will call for her soon, and soon enough he does. We are given some spooky scenes early on, about 12 minutes into the flick, where inanimate horror is used to taunt the young girl, and the viewer. I really enjoyed this sequence because its simplicity was highly effective, and inanimate horror has always been spooky for me. At the same time, we are also introduced to Leigh, and the hit/miss relationship she has with her sister Vera. Leigh first comes across the mysterious girl in red at the 20-minute mark, but she, and the viewer, are left to not think much of it. However, bout 15 minutes later we are exposed to an extreme development that changes everything we know about the girl in red. Hold on though, there is more. Less than ten minutes after this we are given another development that changes the scope of the plot, and this is a character-related one that I did not see coming. It is at this point that the horror begins to manifest greatly, giving us some surprising creature action and solid spooks until the flick’s love/hate climax.

I liked the story, but at the same time there was always something missing. It had the spooks, and they were paced very well, but the end result did not align with the horror seen beforehand. There is a payoff, but it is hardly a payoff worthy of the positive terror seen early on. I also was left a bit unengaged with the character play. The two sisters dominate the plot, but neither was really likable and that naturally leaves me not giving a damn about what happens to them. The same can also be said for the girl in red, so really, there is nothing to look forward here except for the horror and that is not always a good thing.

McCarthy’s direction fared much better than his writing. I enjoyed the atmosphere he provided and found its gloomy exposure and “temperature” to be fitting for the subject matter. His horror, especially the inanimate horror, left me very impressed as it gave me chills that I was not expecting. He managed to keep good tension as the film progressed, with the latter sequences of horror still spooking me despite some cheap CGI. The performances from the main actresses were fair, but that is about it. They were nothing special and nobody stole the show here, which is the one element of McCarthy’s direction that mimicked his writing.

Overall, At The Devil’s Door is one of those flicks that gets the good things right but at the same time lacks the elements that make for a good film. I enjoyed the horror, and you probably would too, but is it worth sitting through the rest of the film? You’ll need to watch and decide for yourself.

Rating: 6/10

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The Taking of Deborah Logan – 7

October 29, 2014 Leave a comment

Director – Adam Robitel

Cast – Jill Larson, Anne Ramsay, Michelle Ang, Ryan Cutrona Anne Bedian, Brett Gentile, Jeremy DeCarlos, Tonya Bludsworth, Julianna Taylor

Release Year – 2014

Reviewed by John of the Dead

I first saw the initial trailer for this film on Facebook and was immediately hooked on seeing this. What left me hooked was the film’s unique premise involvong something I had not seen in the genre, or even the demonsub-genre, before – alzheimers / dementia. 2001 Maniacs actor Adam Robitel directs this effort, his first feature horror film, and alongside a co-written screenplay donning a few good jolts his execution makes this a worthy experience.

As part of her Ph.D program, Mia takes on the opportunity to film a senior woman’s battle with Alzheimer’s. When the woman begins to undergo strange and unexplainable symptoms her family begins to suspect that her problems are of a supernatural, not biological, origin.

The story begins with an intro from Mia where she declares her intent for this project. They quickly arrive at Deborah’s home and are welcomed by her daughter Sarah, who is only doing this because Mia is paying for this opportunity and Deborah’s medical bills have left the family strapped for cash. Deborah is a nice lady at first, although she is not very receptive to being filmed constantly in the “privacy” of her own home. Soon enough, the crew witnesses one of Deborah’s violent outbursts and gets a full-frontal view of the chaos Sarah must deal with on a daily basis. The spooks begin early, with a creepy scene appearing at the 16-minute mark and several more at the 22, 24, and 27 minute marks. This makes for one hell of a first act and a smart move by the writers to suck you in early. The second act shows us more of the medical aspect of Deborah’s condition, with doctors stumped over what is causing the terrible infections and rashes covering her body. Sure enough, the scares don’t stop, and we get the first truly solid scene 32 minutes into the film. I was quite impressed with the writing here, as this is a scare that you know is coming, yet the add-ons to the spook make it one that was more effective than it should have been. As the story builds Deborah’s outbursts continue, and revelations about her past arise. The horror then grows as locations move from the home to the hospital, and then another location where you will witness one of the creepiest scenes of 2014.

I enjoyed the horror seen here and that is about all the film has to offer. The characters involved serve as platforms for Deborah and contribute little to the film on their own. Is this a bad thing? Not really, because I did not notice it very much until after the film. I will say that this would have been a more fulfilling effort had there been characters I actually gave a damn about, but with the most important element, the horror, intact I won’t balk at this too much.

Robitel’s direction is great for a first-timer and is directly responsible for my enjoyment of the film. With not much more to offer than the horror itself he excelled in making this a creepier experience than expected. The atmosphere and sets used are fantastic, employing a home full of dark corners and shadows that would leave me in constant fear if I were to be looking for a missing Deborah in the middle of the night. Actress Jill Larson was an excellent choice as Deborah, giving a haunting performance even during scenes where she had no words, just a deathly stare. To my surprise Robitel relied on practical effects for the horror, including a certain snake-esque scare scene that literally left me in awe. On top of this his execution of the horror was fantastic. The scenes are drawn-out to force the viewer into a nervous state, and great POV cinematography leaves us face-to-face with the horror on many occasions.

Overall, The Taking of Deborah Logan is quite the achievement for first-timer Adam Robitel. He manages to deliver one of the better found-footage films of recent time, with an emphasis on good scares and solid atmosphere. The experience could have been better, as with every horror film out there, but if you are into the found-footage scene you should probably give this one a watch.

Rating: 7/10

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The Possession of Michael King – 6

September 13, 2014 Leave a comment

Director – David Jung

Cast – Shane Johnson, Ella Anderson, Cara Pifko

Release Year – 2014

Reviewed by John of the Dead

I had been hearing a lot about The Possession of Michael King lately and had to give it a watch to see what the fuss is all about. Staying away from trailers and reviews, I went into the film “blind” with few expectations and was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. I really liked the interesting approach to the possession and it provides fresh air to the convoluted demon possession sub-genre. This effort won’t win any awards and is not a flick you must rush to see, but in the end The Possession of Michael King is an experience fans of demon possession may appreciate.

Following the sudden tragic death of his wife, atheist Michael King decides to make a documentary dispelling the supernatural by taking taking those who use it to task. By allowing necromancers, demonologists, and occult practitioners to use their rituals on him, he hopes to capture their failures on film and prove them to be the frauds he believes they are. Unfortunately for Michael, he was wrong about the dark arts he partook in and an evil force is now taking him over. With time running out and a demonic entity that won’t let him go, we watch Michael’s desperate plight to defeat the evils he foolishly welcomed.

I really like this story because it brings a different perspective to the demonic possession element. Usually a completely innocent and unsuspecting person is possessed, but in this story the lead willingly opens the door to it – something I had never seen before. First-timer David Jung and his co-writer Tedi Sarafian kick things off with a slightly vengeful Michael who displays animosity towards psychics and their cohorts because he feels such belief in superstition lead to his wife’s death. A number of circumstances lead to her passing, but seeing a psychic took its toll on her. Michael’s desire to prove them wrong leads to him engaging in what an angelic person like myself would refer to as very risky behavior. He sincerely tries to have a number of demons enter his body, and low and behold…much to his surprise…he gets his wish. We see this occur about 25 minutes into the film but it remains subtle at first. Michael tries to find logical explanations behind his ever-growing ailments, like the screaming voices in his ears. At the 40 minute mark the horror starts to really manifest and it appears that Michael is in way over his head.

Before this the horror had consisted of mostly cheap jump scares that were largely illogical, like a quick splice of a possessed Michael well before he was ever possessed. Once the horror began to manifest halfway through the piece it never relented. The writers focused much of the horror on Michael himself and did not involve many other characters. His daughter and sister were slightly effected but most of Michael’s suffering involves only himself. When he finally comes to terms with what he has done we see him try every self remedy in the book. Spells and incantations do nothing to save him and we see a very different man from the beginning of the film. Now we have a believer who is living in extreme regret for what he has done. Much to my surprise there is no exorcism in the film. I can’t think of many possession films, especially one with “possession” in the title, that does not include the always-expected exorcism sequence at the end of the film. While Michael’s personal horror consumes the film I never really found it scary. It would be scary to be in his situation, but unless you can really envelop yourself in his character you won’t find many worthy scares despite plenty of “horror”. Because the horror depends so much on Michael and hardly involves anyone/anything else it is one-dimensional. I believe this lack of additional elements lead to the horror not being as effective as it could have been. The demons within him could have served a much bigger role, where their personalities and attributes are brought to screen, but for whatever reason they stayed hidden within Michael and served as lost potential.

David Jung also directs and I will say that he did very well for his freshman effort. This is not a devout POV “found footage” film and the perspective shifts from first to third often. The interesting storyline had me hooked early on and the scenes where Michael tries to become possessed are very engaging. Once the possession takes place we see Michael go through both physical and psychological changes and actor Shane Johnson handles the dramatics very well. Despite a 16 year career this seems to be his first leading role, and it is one that focuses heavily on him and hardly anyone else. With Michael also serving as his own antagonist I applaud Shane for a performance bringing his character from one extreme to the other. Jung’s execution of the horror is mostly positive but it did not hit as hard as I expected it to. With the horror solely based on Michael it lacked the multi-dimensional elements that would have made for increased, or at least more effective, horror for the viewer to enjoy.

Overall, The Possession of Michael King offers a unique premise to the possession sub-genre, but is not the hard-hitting film it could have been. The story kept it a little too basic and never delivered on the scares. Jung’s direction is good, so this is not a complete waste, just don’t go in over-hyped.

Rating: 6/10

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Deliver Us From Evil – 5

Director – Scott Derrickson

Cast – Eric Bana, Édgar Ramírez, Olivia Munn, Chris Coy, Dorian Missick, Sean Harris, Joel McHale, Mike Houston, Lulu Wilson, Olivia Horton, Scott Johnsen

Release Year – 2014

Reviewed by John of the Dead

This is a film that had me excited for multiple reasons. It is the newest film from Scott Derrickson, who is a director with a resume I enjoy. He broke onto the scene with the mediocre Hellraiser: Inferno, but since then he has given us The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister, both supernatural films that I highly enjoyed. I am also a fan of lead actor Eric Bana, and this marks the first horror film of his career. Throw in the semi-true supernatural storyline and you have my devout attention, so going into this film I really hoped to enjoy it. From the get-go I began to realize that the experience I expected was not going to happen, and when the story finally achieved greatness it was too little, too late.

Detective Sarchie has a knack for finding unusual cases, and the troubled detective’s “radar” brings him face to face with a series of disturbing crimes committed by a heinous killer. Teaming with an unconventional priest schooled in the rituals of exorcism, Sarchie battles the frightening demonic possessions terrorizing his city where no one, not even his family and partner, are safe.

Scott Derrickson and fellow Emily Rose co-writer Paul Harris Boardman produced this screenplay from Ralph Sarchie’s tell-all book, and while I have yet to read Sarchie’s take on the matter I hope it is more interesting than what these writers delivered. The first act is blander than it should be, starting off with a hint of the evil’s Middle Eastern origin and concluding with the first crime associated with those possessed by it. I could not believe how uneven these scenes felt, and I blame both writing and directing execution for failing to secure the viewer. The second act fares better but unfortunately produces more unanswered questions than I would like to deal with. I enjoy a film that leaves a few rocks unturned so that the viewer is allowed to debate amongst him/herself or friends, but that was not the case here. Instead, multiple horrific elements are thrown in here and there but never used to full potential. Because they must each share runtime they remain undeveloped and instead become more of an annoyance than an engaging development to the conflict. Finally, when the third act hits the horror manifests to supreme levels and I was left smiling for once. I was glad to see a strong finish to a film that started poor but gradually got better, but as I mentioned earlier, “too little, too late”. Character-wise I was disappointed in how Det. Sarchie was portrayed. We see him suffer the usual conflicts associated with a New York City officer, which basically means we see him suffer the usual CLICHES. He neglects his family, turns to alcohol as a solution (moderately, though), and of course keeps this major threat to the public pretty much to himself and a few confidants. I get that he needs conflict at home to help develop his character, but the method of doing so was as cliché as it gets and ultimately a waste of a good actor. The priest, Father Mendoza, was used with much better results. His unconventional mannerisms and internal demons were interesting and made you actually care for the guy, plus his actions during the final act stole the show. I am not sure if this was the case in “real life”, but the writers gave us a mediocre lead with a good supporting cast. The horrror they wrote into the film was pretty good though, and we were given plenty of it. Even though I did not particularly like the film I was glad to see lots of horror to keep me going until the end credits relieved me. We see plenty of kills, decent gore, and lots of spooks that were effective in a movie theater with surround sound. The supernatural element could have been furthered and is one of those undeveloped elements I mentioned earlier, leaving out untold potential that could have resulted in supreme levels of horror.

Derrickson’s direction was hit and miss, which was the biggest surprise for me. He delivered solid efforts with Sinister and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, so naturally I figured he would bring the goods once again for Deliver Us From Evil. From the get-go he sets good atmosphere – dark and gloomy, which is just the way I like it. The tension strikes early and his execution is engaging, giving us a full frontal point of view to the carnage. When the horror hit he would play heavily on the senses, especially sound. There are some spooky nighttime scenes that show nothing but still brought chills about the movie theater thanks to the spooking scratching noises we would hear. When the final act hits and the major exorcism begins we are shown just how great Derrickson can be. His execution was incredible and once again he brought amazing sound with him to seal the deal. I wish I could say that the rest of the film was this good, but his execution came with faults as well. The acting performances from our protagonists were pretty mediocre, with the best performances coming from the possessed antagonists. Sean Harris (Creep, Isolation, Prometheus) stole the show as Santino, the lead antagonist who is the root of the conflict in the film.  Harris seems to have a knack for portraying creepy characters, as he also portrayed the Creep in Michael Smith’s 2004 effort, Creep.  I enjoy a good antagonist, but it’s usually nice if the protagonist can hold his/her own as well but sadly they were not written in that manner. The worst is yet to come though. There were scenes in the film that I found completely unfathomable, and that is because they were so bad I could not believe my eyes. I don’t want to provide spoilers, so all I can say is that these scenes involve horrible sound effects added to some of the “scare” scenes. I would expect such antics from a crappy low budget piece from a novice director, but to see such nonsense on the big screen…unfathomable.

Overall, Deliver Us From Evil is a film I wanted to like, but poor writing and directing execution made that impossible. The story is downright stupid at times, as is the execution, and while the horror eventually manifested into something great…it was too little, too late. I promise I’m going to stop saying that too.

Rating: 5/10

Here Comes the Devil – 7

February 11, 2014 Leave a comment

Director – Adrian Garcia Bogliano

Cast – Laura Caro, Francisco Barreiro, Michele Garcia, Michele Garcia, David Arturo Cabezud, Giancarlo Ruiz

Release Year – 2013

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Here Comes the Devil was one of the most hyped and sought-after horror films of 2013. After sweeping the horror awards at Austin’s Fantastic Fest 2012 for Best Picture / Screenplay / Director / Actor / Actress this was a film I, like most others in the genre, absolutely had to see. After viewing this piece I can say that it is definitely one of the better horror films of 2013, but I do not feel it is quite worth the hype. Nonetheless, Here Comes the Devil is a flick I am glad I watched and I am glad to see director Adrian Garcia Bogliano become a growing force in the genre.

While vacationing in Tijuana, Felix and Sol’s two young children go missing while exploring a large cave-ridden hillside. Fear and tension grip the couple, but their worries turn to elation when their kids inexplicably return the following day. Their children seem different and the couple believes stress is to blame, but they will soon learn that their children are not who they used to be and something sinister has come home with them.

This storyline really grabs my attention. I love that it has to do with a place unfamiliar to the family, it has to do with their children, and the origin of the horror is supernatural. Once I got into the film I realized the story would come with a strong sexual element as well. Bogliano’s film opens with a nude lesbian tryst that is interrupted by the panicked knocking of the front door, and bloody results ensue. At first I was left wondering what purpose this scene would serve, and soon enough I started to catch on. After the opening sequence we follow the vacationing family enjoying their stay in Tijuana, despite a weird encounter with a strange local after their young daughter hits puberty and “becomes” a woman. It wasn’t until the children disappear on the hill while their parents are messing around (sexually) in the car that I was sure beyond all doubt that sex would be the root of evil in this flick. If you have seen the film Antichrist then this scene should remind you of its infamous opening sequence. From then on out we watch the couple’s panic and then joy as their children return safe from the hill after an overnight stay, but it is obvious that whatever they experienced on the hill was of ill-nature. According to the locals the hill harbors a supernatural presence, and it seems that it is not a coincidence that the childrens’ disappearance coincided with an earthquake on the hill. After returning home Felix and Sol begin to experience strange and unexplainable events going on around the home, and as expected only one parent believes something is wrong while the other is searching for a logical explanation. Soon enough the horror intensifies, and the most shocking scenes occur when Sol’s relative babysits the children and learns first-hand what they are capable of. The film’s twists and turns are interesting and we ourselves are kept somewhat in the dark over what happened to the children, but the story’s tremendous climax should take care of that.

While I enjoyed this story overall and found it highly engaging, I feel that it had quite a few faults. There are still many unanswered questions, and while some may argue that this allows for the viewer to engage in discussion I felt that the story’s lack of clarification regarding certain events held back what could have been an even better story. At times it really felt like Bogliano was unsure of what type of story he was trying to give us. The film is a slow-burner that also tries to be a supernatural thrillfest and ultimately fails at both. Earlier I mentioned the film’s highly noticeable use of sex as the source of evil in the film, and while we get a few more instances of sex playing a role I felt that if Bogliano wanted to use sex as such a crutch he should have focused on it more instead of teasing us with it. Little things like these added up and left me feeling like the story was a bit dry and lackluster, and this is why I felt like the flick was not worth the hype. I love the story as a whole, but as a 97 minute experience there is a lot missing.

Bogliano’s direction is pretty good, giving us excellent atmosphere and delivering good tension. He gives us a modern feel that also bleeds 70s-esque psychological horror, much like Ti West’s The House of the Devil. There is a heavy sense of dread that prevails throughout pretty much the entire film and this keeps the viewer at attention, knowing that the horror can hit at any time. His execution of the characters is pretty basic, with the children coming off as quite and distant, yet displaying this look and interaction with each other that indicates that they are obviously hiding something. When the horror hits supreme levels inside the home we are shown the best he has to offer, and while it was mostly effective at delivering a chill or two I was expecting better. I will say that my favorite scene was not of the children’s mischief when their parents are sleeping, but the scene involving what happened to the babysitter. This sequence was expertly executed and managed to freak me out a bit despite it being told after the fact – a sign of good atmosphere, storytelling, and execution.

Overall, Here Comes the Devil is a haunting experience that is deserving of your time. Bogliano’s direction is good and as a result we are given one of the better horror films of 2013 and a few good chills for the viewer to enjoy. The story is an interesting one overall that only suffers a few faults that other viewers may not even have a problem with, and may even find preferable. While I still believe this experience is a bit over-hyped, it is definitely one I suggest you check out yourself.

Rating: 7/10

…Additional Stills…

Insidious: Chapter 2 – 6

September 14, 2013 Leave a comment

Director – James Wan

Cast – Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, Lin Shaye, Ty Simpkins, Leigh Whannell, Steve Coulter, Angus Sampson, Andrew Astor, Hank Harris, Jocelin Donahue, Lindsay Seim, Danielle Bisutti, Tyler Griffin, Garrett Ryan

Release Year – 2013

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell crashed the horror scene with one of the most notable horror films of all time, Saw. While they had forever left their mark by bringing what some refer to as “torture porn” to the American audience, they were far from through with showing off their talents and gave us one of the best horror films of this decade…Insidious. While I love Insidious just as much as the next guy, I was not very excited to learn about Insidious: Chapter 2. I loved the idea of Wan and Whannell teaming up to give us another horror film, but I felt that the story created for Insidious did not have the material to give us another full length experience…and to an extent I was right. The filmmakers once again managed to give us a creepy experience that delivers some good scares, but in the end Insidious: Chapter 2 is not only a film we did not need but also a big step down from its predecessor that sadly ends the series on a mediocre note.

The story takes off immediately after the events of Insidious, where the Lambert family desperately tries to move on with their lives after saving young Dalton from The Further. When the hauntings begin to occur again and grow in intensity, their friends seek to uncover Josh’s long-forgotten childhood secret that has left his family dangerously connected to a malignant force in the spirit world.

I was curious to how Wan and Whannel would conjure up enough story to fulfill another film, and they did so by taking us deeper into the further and Josh’s past. First I must applaud the writers for giving us an ambitious attempt to end the series they created, but this ambition also resulted in a muddy story that never seemed to find its rhythm. This happened as a result of the story’s constant time-traveling between the current and Josh’s past, where little time and development was spent with either before throwing us back into the other. Because of this the writers were unable to use Renai to her full potential and instead forced themselves to use her as mediocre conflict for the first two acts of the film, where she merely suspected Josh of being under an evil influence but did little to pursue her theory and save her family. Instead, she served as a rag doll chew toy for the spirit. The same loss of potential also applies to Specs and Tucker, who played a significant role in the first film but a very insignificant one in this sequel. Gone are the days when they actually helped the Lambert family and now they serve as two stooges who mostly provide comic relief at just the right moments. This comic relief was good and I did find it enjoyable, but sadly it was not accompanied by them executing their profession.

As mentioned earlier this ambitious story provides a heavy time travel element that takes us from the present, to the past, and back again, giving us some cool insight into why the malevolent force is attacking the Lambert family and slowly explaining Josh’s relation to the spirit world. I did enjoy the flashback scenes and found them to provide some good creepiness as well, my only balk is that the way the scenes were written into the film ruined its fluidity and pacing. There are plenty of scare scenes for the viewer to enjoy and most of them were pretty enjoyable. As mentioned earlier the spirit involved harbors a growing tenacity that we get to experience first-hand, so despite the story’s faults at least expect some good chills.

Speaking of good chills, James Wan’s direction is great as usual. He does a fantastic job of setting up positive atmosphere that also comes with incredible sets in every location he used. Never before have I really found myself enamored by the extreme detail of film sets used by a horror director, and James Wan really knows how to visually strike the viewer in a subtle way that does not take away from the horror. This was especially prevalent in the homes used during the flashback scenes, where every lamp, light fixture, and wall color was perfectly articulated to grab our attention and suck us in, which allows the scares to hit us even harder. His execution of the scares alone is great and he left me with goosebumps on numerous occasions. His villains are effectively creepy and he sticks to the plain Jane makeup effects used in Insidious, which brought back memories of classic horror from the 50s and 60s. The acting performances were good enough, with our protagonists doing well and the antagonists coming off a bit too cheesy for my liking, but all in all it was Wan’s direction that really saved this mediocre piece from potentially being a disastrous way for Wan to leave the genre after giving us almost 10 years of solid horror films.

Overall, Insidious: Chapter 2 is an unnecessary sequel that naturally suffered the consequences of being just that. The scares are good and so is the direction, but the story is so muddy that it never finds a rhythm and the snowball effect kicks into gear. This is not a bad film as it does come with some positives, but it is not a good film either and comes nowhere near the greatness of its predecessor.

Rating: 6/10

…Additional Stills…

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