Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

Nightmares and the realm of dreams. They’re not a new target for horror movies. Indeed, a certain burnt-faced man in a green and red striped jumper with a beknived hand got there a good few decades ago. But they’re still ripe for the picking, owing to the fact that we can’t control our dreams or where they take us. For the most part. Let me tell you a little story… You see, when I was a young Phage I used to suffer from extreme nightmares. Ones that would involve a car full of silhouettes pulling up outside my house and running at the building whilst Momma Phage slept upstairs. I would run downstairs and see them running and jumping in through the windows – they had no faces, no features, nothing. Just silhouettes. Similarly, I’d see images of beloved ones warping into demons and attacking me. These were relentless and they’d come again and again, night after night. That was until I learnt to lucid dream and control what happens. So I was able to talk to these demons and attackers. Once I did? No more of those nightmares. I cured myself of these insidious thoughts.

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

Whilst my advancing age has somewhat diminished my abilities to manipulate the dream, I can still become self-aware and know I’m in a dream. This has brought about a new type of nightmare… As now I’m in my head, but it’s completely dark. All I know is that I’m there with some malevolent force. Nowadays I find myself challenging myself in my head and trying to embrace this “thing” that I’m perceiving as evil. It sounds confusing right? You should try spending a night as The Phage! It’s an odd one! So… where am I going after this therapy-esque confession? Well, the original Insidious focused on evils that lurk in our dreams – dead spirits that want to come back… So, enter Insidious: Chapter 2, to pick up where the first film left off…

If you’re thinking about seeing Insidious: Chapter 2 and you’ve not seen the original? Well, you’re going to struggle. Pretty badly! This movie doesn’t make many apologies for this and plunges relentlessly into the plot. I’ve seen Insidious… and to be honest, I thought it was “good” but by no means this “great” horror that people laud it as. It had a nice premise, but lost all terror in the last third. Having said that, I do remember the plot. But having not watched it since its theatrical release, even I found myself straining to remember the closing 10 minutes of the original. I got there… but it wasn’t instant recall! Essentially, this film picks up immediately after the first – a little boy became trapped in dream world with some demons, his dad (Patrick Wilson) followed him into there to bring him home. But we’re not sure just what came out of that world, as an evil “old woman” was trying to get back to Wilson‘s body before he did… did she succeed? Well, Wilson did kill at the end of the first movie, so we’d presume so, right?

Oh, and if you’re wondering, I’d have given Insidious 3 Phages. Why? Too much reliance on my old enemy… LOUD NOISES!

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

And LOUD NOISES are very much in place in Insidious: Chapter 2 too. Not as many as there have been previously, but there’s certainly a reliance on them. Let’s be honest… there’s little in the way of true scares in this film. A couple of jumps, but that’s more due to clever framing, as opposed to genuine horror. No, The Conjuring this ain’t. I should mention we saw The Conjuring, but flew abroad straight away afterwards. Verdict? We really liked it – 4 Phages. Jeez, we’re writing reviews within reviews here aren’t we?!

I would however like to mention the humour. Insidious: Chapter 2 did have me smiling – for the right reasons. The comedic performances coming out of “paranormal investigators” Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) were brilliant. Truly, they were the highlight of the movie for me. The others? Well… they were there. Not bad, by any stretch of the imagination, but nothing too memorable.

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

As mentioned at the outset, I like the dream premise, but Insidious: Chapter 2 gets carried away with it and vaults back and forth between planes a lot. This, coupled with the unrelentingly forward-marching plot, makes for an uncomfortable viewing for the first time Insidious viewer… But even for the veterans, it all becomes a little dull. The jumps have been done before and the plot is quite linear. In the original the last 15 minutes disappointed me as they were anticlimactic, like the reveal in Jeepers Creepers. But here? I was just a little bored. And the hokey set-up for Insidious: Chapter 3? A little too much…

Insidious: Chapter 2 is pretty much on par with the original Insidious in my books… and I wasn’t bowled over with the original, like so many were. This sequel should be applauded for continuing the plot and being a true sequel, but it falls down in terms of horror and suspense. I enjoyed the movie more as a comedy than I did a horror thanks to the performances of Whannell and Sampson. But even that wasn’t enough to save the movie. It was passable… but certainly not remarkable.

Maybe I’m just not able to be scared by horror movies now, following my earlier confession about my somewhat bizarre nightmares that I concoct for myself nowadays. In fact, I’m pretty sure my dreams and nightmares are ripe for the picking, as they’re pretty warped and weird. Although I’m not sure how you convey the feeling of malevolent evil that I can sense once I’m in there. Maybe if we held the screening and announced that one audience member would be picked at random and subjected to the horror that is having to watch Adam Sandler‘s Jack & Jill on a loop for an entire weekend… that’d do it.

Phage Factor:

2.5 Stars

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Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)

Back in 2009, a movie came out that brought something new and refreshing to the “found footage” genre of horror movie made so popular by The Blair Witch Project a decade before. That film was Paranormal Activity. Like its snotty-faced muse, it was very low budget and had a certain simplicity to it. It relied on a single handicam being placed in a bedroom every night to capture what spooky shenanigans were occurring. Audiences loved it, so inevitably the sequel hit screens the following year. And in a pattern resembling Saw, we’re now seeing sequels summoned on a yearly basis to coincide with Halloween. But is Paranormal Activity 4 a devilish return to form, or is it just a pale apparition of what went before?

If you’ve been following the franchise thus far then this film returns back to the “regular” timeline set forth in Paranormal Activity and Paranormal Activity 2, but does draw on plotlines exposed in the prequel, Paranormal Activity 3. I know, I too wish they’d just called Paranormal Activity 3 “Paranormal Activity: Inception, or Origins, or The Summoning”… just something to make the chronology a little easier to comprehend! Regardless, it follows on from the massacre at the hands of Katie (Katie Featherston) in PA2. And guess what? She’s gone walkabout with Hunter and ended up in a new neighbourhood – a new neighbourhood that houses our lead, Alex (Kathryn Newton), and her family. Inevitably, spooky things start happening and the Paranormal Activity storyline is developed… very, very slowly… and not in an interesting new way.

He’s behind you…

The big “hook” this time is the use of modern technology to capture the activity, namely webcams and X-box Kinect’s detection system. I’ve got to say, it worked, but it wasn’t as effective as it could have been, and nowhere near as interesting as what went before. The main problem is that in previous instalments the cameras were positioned in such a way that you became very familiar with the room over time. The nature of a webcam mounted to a laptop is that it travels and moves a hell of a lot; thus breaking some of this continuity. Sure, some of these cameras are artificially “fixed” to capture the action, but it somewhat removed some of the tension by having them so mobile.

The next thing you’ve got to come to with a horror film is… the horror, the scares, the tension. And I’ve got to say that spare the last 3 minutes, the film is incredibly light on all of the former. The Paranormal Activity franchise has got a reputation as being a “slow burner” and one that gradually ramps up the tension, but this takes “slow burner” to an entirely new level. This is very slow. And the menace is somewhat removed by the silhouette outlined by the Kinect sensor’s projections. In previous films, you’ve come to use your imagination to conjure up what this demon looks like. Hell, in Paranormal Activity you saw those weird trotter / three-toed imprints in the talcum powder, and in Paranormal Activity 3 you had that snorting sound. I was imagining one hell of a demon. All of this is destroyed somewhat in PA4. You’ll see what I mean if you head out to see it.

This is an album cover by a death metal band called Crucifier (thanks Google). But THIS is how I saw Paranormal Activity’s demon. Or something close…

And how could I forget the return of my friend “LOUD NOISES!”. Yes, he’s back and with a vengeance this time around. The majority of the startlings are a result of the loud noises. I’m well aware that Paranormal Activity pioneered this approach, so I’m not expecting it to vanish, but a little more terror would have been appreciated. And god knows I rambled enough about this issue in my review of Sinister, which in retrospect was probably a better film than Paranormal Activity 4. In all aspects. The acting here isn’t bad, as Kathryn Newton is a very likeable lead and carries the film well, but its the shambolic writing that lets the film down so badly. I’m sick to death of the family never believing there’s a ghost until they’re crucified on a clothes line or suspended from the rafters by a dressing gown cord.

The Kinect effect. Not sure if Microsoft will feel a boom in their profits because of this though…

And the plot holes? My oh my are there plot holes! Although some would ruin the film, just ask yourself “who is Katie’s child?” – the one that she initially turns up with, because it sure as hell isn’t Hunter from Paranormal Activity 2. Who is he? Why does she have him? And just why the hell do they bother to record ghostly happenings if they never check the bloody tapes!? I’m half-expecting the already-commissioned Paranormal Activity 5 to deal with the unknown child to be honest. And inevitably I’ll be going to the cinema to see what they’ve cooked up this time. Hopefully something a little more refreshing and interesting…

Paranormal Activity 4 isn’t a bad movie, but it’s not even in the same league as the original. Many of the scares have been removed and the pre-requisite for imagination has been checked at the cloakroom. It was the fear of not knowing what the demon looked like that made it interesting for me. The addition of a witches’ covenant in Paranormal Activity 3 caught me a little off-guard, and was unwelcome in my eyes, but it added a bit of depth to the saga. This instalment does little to develop the plot.

Ultimately, this film’s developments are tantamount to finding out that the horrible black silhouette of a goblin lurking in the corner of your room is in fact a pile of clothes. It removes the fear and intrigue. Maybe I missed the point of the “silhouette” cast by the demon here, but the film certainly didn’t develop this image I have in my head. I certainly won’t be calling the Ghostbusters. Especially if Bill Murray isn’t coming to crack some jokes. Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters 2 – now THEY were scary movies! I’ve never looked at a fridge or bathtub the same since. Probably why I’m malnourished andĀ odorous.

Phage Factor: