Written and Media by Jake Cannon.
Horror franchises have really lost it. You get one solid horror film, then that becomes a franchise cash cow just ready to be milked by the higher echelon in Hollywood. Some examples of these franchises would be: Halloween, Jaws, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Saw, Paranormal Activity, Child’s Play, Alien, The Exorcist, Final Destination, and Scream (to name a few). All solid films marked and marred by the franchise that comes after it. And now, just what we needed: a sequel to the most highly inventive and genuinely scary movie of 2011. I am of course referring to Insidious; Insidious, the movie that made “Tiptoeing Through The Tulips” a frightening song. But I digress. Has the industry gotten ahold of this gem of horror? Only time will tell.
There are three things you should look for in horror movies (especially horror movies involving demons):
1) Did it scare you?
2) Was it a good film?
3) Where is God?
This won’t be your typical movie review. The first half will be dedicated to points one and two. The latter half to point three. It’s especially important, as Christians, to examine movies that feature an afterlife, demons and ghosts because it only goes to prove the idea of what we believe: spiritual warfare is real. I only say “idea” because the idea in Christianity is that there is an all-powerful and omnipotent God who is currently waging a battle against the god of this world: Satan. Exorcist horror films take this idea, dramatize it, add pea soup, and voila! A money making horror franchise. But can there be truth in these horror films? Is there a “being” or “god” who ultimately overcomes evil like in Christianity?
Did it scare you? Was it a good film?
Insidious Chapter 2 picks up right where we left off in Insidious. Renai (Rose Byrne) and Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) have moved into Josh’s moms house following the events of the first film. Their son Dalton has returned from The Further and the police are investigating the murder of a main character from the first film. But something weird is happening. The grand piano plays by itself, a woman in a white dress walks around the house and Josh is acting strange. Strange as in talking to himself (which I do a lot) and pulling out his teeth (which I don’t do a lot). Needless to say, Renai is spooked and so is Josh’s mom, Lorraine, played by Barbara Hershey. So Lorraine enlists the help of Tucker and Specs, the paranormal investigating duo from the first film, to find out what’s going on.
Simple as it may sounds, Insidious Chapter 2 expands on the mythology of The Further and the ghosts involved with the Lambert family. And by mythology I mean time travel. Yup, time travel. Was Insidious Chapter 2 as scary as its predecessor? No. There are fewer jumps but more intense atmospheric scenes that you beg to be over so you can leave. James Wan (Saw, Dead Silence), draws you into the film with nothing but silence and a slow zoom into the shadows. While this film wasn’t as scary, it was more story driven in that it explains a lot from the first film. Something you don’t see a lot of horror franchises (Paranormal Activity) do well (not Paranormal Activity). Not saying this film wasn’t scary, it was plenty scary. But the fear is driven not by scary images but by the disturbing story line and the creepy atmosphere.
All in all, Insidious Chapter 2 was a solid followup. The connections they made to the first film were awesome. James Wan, over five films, has honed his style and has become a formidable force in the horror world. If you loved the first film, go see this sequel.
Where is God?
With Insidious, there comes a certain amount of spiritual befuddlement. There are demons, damned souls and something of an afterlife, or as Elise describes it, “Everyone comes here eventually, hopefully on their way to a better place.” So if there is something more than The Further, let’s regard that as paradise and The Further as a hell/purgatory hybrid. We’re getting warmer to the truth. But now some people can astral project their souls to The Further (getting colder…), and their bodies can become possessed by the dead (freezing). Let’s take a step back from this though, and as Christians, look at the Insidious franchise objectively.
Earlier this year, James Wan directed the superb and very, very scary The Conjuring featuring the Warren family, two catholic demonologists. The film ultimately acknowledges the existence of not only demons, but the existence of God. The film went on to make over $250 million. That’s not the only surprise– The Conjuring was a big hit among evangelical audiences. Why would a dramatized exorcism movie be a big hit among Christians? What’s the appeal? Owen Gleiberman, writer for Entertainment Weekly, offered up his thoughts:
It comes on as straight-up devil’s candy, but beneath the occult shock theater, it is also deep-dish sacramental corn. The fantasy that drives exorcist movies is that if the Devil is here, then God is going to have to reveal Himself to beat the Devil back.
If you conjure up the devil, you have to conjure up God. Horror movies teach us that demons are not to be messed with. However, the biggest pitfall is that horror movies make demons too powerful. Bigger yet, God is replaced with psychics and séances (which can ultimately lead the much darker and perilous things).
The Conjuring triumphed with God. Insidious triumphed with…well…a little bit of everything. On the plus side, Insidious recognizes the existence of demons but offers an equally damning solution to stop them. The Conjuring made the Warren family more the conquerers. Insidious made mysticism king. God is remarkably absent from the Insidious franchise. Maybe that’s why bad things keep happening.
We are told in 1 John 4:4: “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” Even though Satan can attack us (2 Corinthians 12:7-9) we are not left defenseless (Ephesians 6:10-18), in fact, Satan is already defeated (Colossians 2:15).
Horror movies like Insidious and The Conjuring can remind us of the spiritual battle we are fighting every day. Even though it is on a much more dramatic level than reality, it can humbly remind us we don’t fight alone. There is someone who is greater than evil. There is a way to fight. While most horror films such as Insidious are devoid of God, they mostly hint at the truth of a war being waged right now. A war of good vs. evil. But what we should be reminded of daily is that we are stronger. We are strong not on our own strength, but on the strength of the man who said “it is finished.”
Soli Deo gloria.
Insidious Chapter 2 is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of terror and violence, and thematic elements.