“Insidious” is what happens when you take the director of one horror-movie franchise — “Saw” helmsman James Wan — and team him up with the producers of another — Jason Blum and Oren Peli of “Paranormal Activity.” If that sounds about as promising as curry-mayonnaise pizza, well, it’s not that bad: “Insidious” doesn’t dabble in the torture-porn sadism of the “Saw” series, nor does it rely on the found-footage gimmick (and amateurish acting) of the “Paranormal” movies.

What the “Insidious” series does offer is spook-house scares galore, and “Insidious: Chapter 2” tries its hardest to keep you on the edge of your seat: creepy little kids in a trance, things that go bump in the dark, seances, poltergeists, apparitions that only appear in photos and mirrors, and more. It’s certainly effective at what it does, up to a point.

“Insidious: Chapter 2” opens right where the first film left off. (Which was pretty much sequel-bait anyway.) Renai and Josh Lambert (Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson) are relieved that their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) is back from his comatose state, where he was astral projecting into the spirit realm, but Renai senses something is wrong with her husband, who had entered that world to rescue their son.

Insidious: Chapter 2
Director James Wan
Run Time 106 minutes
Language English
Opens Opens Jan. 10, 2014

The paranormal investigator who had been helping them, Elise (Lin Shaye), has been mysteriously murdered, and the cops suspect Josh, while Elise’s colleagues Specs and Tucker (Leigh Whannel and Angus Sampson) think it was the ghosts that have been terrorizing the Lamberts’ home. This is basically “Scooby-Doo” for adults, with Specs and Tucker providing some comic relief to the film’s incessant, button-pushing frights.

Wan certainly had me good and scared for the first 30 minutes of his film: There are some things he does exceptionally well, like how his camera’s every turn around a doorway or through a corridor makes your heart beat faster. One of the best moments is where Renai walks past the living room and you think you glimpse something in the corner of the shot, but Wan leaves it hanging — did you just see that or not? It’s tension-building moments like this make “Insidious” fun.

Up to a point. Apparently, Wan has never heard that old adage that your bogeyman/creature/ghost/whatever is more terrifying the less you see of it. The unknown is always more frightening than the known, more so than ever in this era of commonplace CGI, but Wan reveals his spooks early and then just keeps them coming, with lessening impact. The director also steals shamelessly from other films, with “The Shining” and “Poltergeist” being only the two most obvious examples here. Dude, seriously: Are comparisons to Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg really something you should be inviting?

Note to screenwriters: Having a character fall fast asleep while a raving murderer is trying to smash a door down with a crowbar is definitely a WTF moment. Add to that the usual horror-movie crutch of having Darwin-award winners for protagonists and things get dull. Just once, it would be so nice to see some people stumble upon a room full of decomposing corpses in the mental ward of an abandoned hospital and say, “I am so out of here.”

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