The Lambert family can't seem to catch a break. In Chapter 1, Josh and Renai dealt with their son Dalton falling into an inexplicable coma and being continuously terrorized by ghosts in an astral realm, which led to Josh eventually using his own suppressed astral projecting abilities to bring Dalton back from the Further—but something sinister has returned home with him.
Insidious: Chapter 2, which reunites director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell (who's also back as Specs, one half of a blundering investigative duo that adds some flat comic relief) does little to ease its audience into the chilling reality the Lamberts continue to experience. A flashback to Josh's (Patrick Wilson) childhood gets things started, depicting the incident which led to paranormal investigator Elise Reiner (who assisted the family in the first film) teaching Josh to forget the astral realm he travels to in his sleep. It raises numerous questions, which will be answered in time—sort of.
Fast forward to the present and strange occurrences still run rampant in the Lambert household. They've left the house from the first film and now live with Josh's mother, (which is, of course, a historic home ideal for all sorts of creepy nighttime scenes). The new dwelling doesn't make a difference: ghosts continue to surface and Renai (Rose Byrne) begins to piece together what's going on with her husband, who's becoming more volatile by the day as the malevolent spirit clinging to his body insists he murder his family—a plot point which rings a little too familiar from stories such as Amityville Horror.
The film plays to the fear of the unknown: that unshakable feeling of being watched and unexplained, disturbing events all happening at home, the one place that's supposed to be safe. In this case, the unknown element is spookier than what's actually causing all the ruckus. Ghosts throughout the film are decidedly less scary once you actually see them, thanks to some Halloween-quality makeup and costumes.
However, this second installment does have some solid moments of suspense and horror. A sequence that lands several of the characters in an abandoned hospital and subsequently into an even more dire predicament is especially well-done, while another thread from the first film re-shot from Josh's perspective in the Further makes for an intriguing bit of action.
Insidious: Chapter 2 has all the makings of a smart horror flick that relies less on blood and guts (there isn't really any to speak of) and more on the chilling creatures that hide in the dark when we close our eyes, but at times, the plot trips over itself and becomes muddled. Meanwhile, the acting hits all the necessary screams and ragged, terrified breathing, but doesn't always do the film justice—Wilson is a strong exception, while Byrne just does a lot of teary wimpering. Just don't think it's over yet—the ending sets up a strong possibility for Chapter 3.