NEW YORK (CNS) – Once again into The Further we go for "Insidious: Chapter 2," although we learn not much more about that astral plane than we did in the 2011 first installment of this fright series.
Maybe director James Wan, who shares writing credits with Leigh Whannell, is still figuring out life after death. Anyway, The Further – which two years ago we called "a reasonably ambitious Halloween house" between the world of the living and Paradise – is merely a darkened studio set with fog machines.
Sometimes the righteous among the dolorously departed therein, needing light to spot their pals, carry Coleman lanterns – sort of like Diogenes looking for an honest man. Lots of moaning goes on there as well.
In the original, Wan and Whannell only sent one child, Dalton Lambert (Ty Simpkins) into this less-than-great beyond during one of his dream trances, and father Josh (Patrick Wilson) had to go after him. This time, Josh starts out occupied by a dead person's spirit, which sets up further spooky doings; up to four characters at a time, including Dalton, are Further-bound.
You'd think the Lambert family might want to move out of their charming Victorian gingerbread house, or at least buy some WD-40 for all those creaking doors. But no, they stay to tough it out with the spirit world.
Their place is haunted – well, pestered by – two demonic ghoulies. One, Parker Crane, was a serial killer known as the "Bride in Black" because he wore a wedding gown while slaying 15 people.
Though dead, Parker (played by various actors and stunt people) continues to have anger issues because his mother (Danielle Bisutti) – our other unfriendly ghost – used to dress him up as a girl.
No one tries any exorcising; baseball bats and fists are the preferred weapons for the finale in the basement. We also learn, thanks to a visit to a boarded-up hospital with an intact records room, that Parker was a Catholic. Happily, this informational nugget is not developed.
Ghostbusters Specs and Tucker (Whannell and Angus Sampson) return for comic relief, and actress Elise Rainier – whose character, medium Lin Shaye, was killed in the first film – evidently signed a two-picture contract.
The film contains physical violence, intense scenes involving children and fleeting profane and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Kurt Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.