Did I see the first one? No.
Did it matter? No.
There was enough info to go on since the movie picks up RIGHT AFTER the first, with Renai talking to the police, so it gives you a refresher on what’s happening without infodumping all over the place. The police, obviously, say “so your husband went into the spirit world to rescue your son who was in a coma? You know that’s not a real thing, right?”
Actually, that’s not the first scene, the first scene takes place in 1986, with Josh as a young child being put into a trance by Elise and communicating with a ghost, the ghost of an old woman, who’s creeping everyone out.
Her ghost, along with a serial killer’s ghost looking for a host body to reclaim his lost youth are terrorizing the Lamberts. The ghosts primarily haunt the children while Renai is left to wonder about the questionable state of her husband and run around wondering if ghosts are trying to steal her baby, hearing singing on baby monitors, haunted toys, someone playing the piano. It plays into the “a mother’s worst fear” thing. Fortunately Renai is smart. Josh’s mom, Lorraine, is smart, too and contacts Elise’s cohorts to help defeat the evil ghosts. Carl, Specs, Tucker and Lorraine lead an investigation that takes them to a haunted abandoned hospital (and a house where the serial killer used to live, which is still there, and still has little kid stuff. That’s not so logical.) While they’re hunting down the source, Renai is getting creeped out and Josh is going bad from the inside out. They decide that they are in over their heads and need to contact Elise for help.
There are a few moments that made Dr. Chris yelp like a frightened tween (and the theater was full of actual tweens, since this is rated PG13).
There’s layers, there’s interesting filming tactics (GhostHunters/Paranormal activity style filming here and there. Parts that look studio but aren’t touched up.) there’s some genuine laughs…
Mostly from these two:
who run around dressed like a couple of GeekSquad CSAs. Their clumsy courage through humor reminded me of why I would never be a ghost hunter. I would be screaming at everyone: “I HATE IT HERE AND I WANT TO LEAVE!” because they faced some creepy, corpse-y stuff.. and I was scared.
Dalton was a pretty gutsy kid.
Overall it was relatively clever, a few genuine surprise shocks, a decent amount of tension and a couple good jokes.
BUT I have no idea why they had to make the serial killer dress in drag. This whole “A man in a dress must be psycho and dangerous!” trope must be shot dead. STOP DOING THAT it would have been scary without a wedding dress. NO REALLY, KNOCK IT OFF.
Side note, there’s also this one part where Josh/Parker is explaining the “the dead want what we have, they want life” HOW MANY HORROR MOVIES HAVE SAID THIS?
Useless information recall: Christina Milian said it circa 2006 in Pulse “They want what they don’t have anymore. They want life.”
I like my horror movie characters to exist in a world that has horror movies, thanks. Aside from that, ageism takes a holiday, moms kick butt, and a shadowy spooky plot that sets up a potential third movie (I actually hate when movies do that)