Insidious: Chapter 3 Movie Review
Written by Ted McCarthy
Released by Blumhouse Productions
Written and directed by Leigh Whannell
2015, 97 minutes, Rated PG-13
Released on June 5th, 2013
Dermot Mulroney as Sean Brenner
Lin Shaye as Elise Rainier
Stefanie Scott as Quinn Brenner
Leigh Whannell as Specs
Angus Sampson as Tucker
I've gotten much flack as a hater for this, but I feel compelled at the outset here to disclose that I've found the Insidious franchise to be one of the most overrated in modern horror. The first film was the best, but even when that one came out in 2010, I was not one of its champions, and always thought it was kind of a pale imitator of the original Poltergeist (notice how I have to say "original" now, since we've recently had the remake dribbled upon us – woof). Truth be told, the first Insidious has grown on me somewhat, and I have since become impressed with the creepy artistry and design in some of its third-act set pieces. I've only watched Insidious: Chapter 2 once, and it didn't do much for me, and felt very much like a fairly rote retread of the first one with a few new plot elements. Maybe I will revisit it now after watching Insidious: Chapter 3.
With scribe and supporting actor Leigh Whannell taking the director's chair left vacant by James Wan, this film goes the trendy "beginning" route of horror sequels, and sets the action some time before the events of the first two installments. Young aspiring actress Quinn (Stefanie Scott) visits "retired" medium Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye, reprising her role from parts 1 and 2) in hopes of connecting with her deceased mother. Elise warns her against trying to contact her mother on her own, saying that if she calls out to one of the dead, all of them can hear her. Quinn of course heeds the old woman's advice and goes on to live a healthy and ghost-free life. Yeah, right.
Instead, Quinn repeatedly tries to communicate with her dead mom, opening a gateway for another demon to come and take hold of her, sucking her spirit and lifeforce little by little into The Further – that netherworld for restless ghosts and other malevolent spirits that we saw in the earlier films. At his wits' end, and juggling a job, douchy teen son, and a possessed daughter, Quinn's dad Sean (Dermot Mulroney) finds Elise and enlists her – as well as geeky paranormal investigators Specs and Tucker (Whannell and Angus Sampson) – to help save Quinn from the pale, gurgling specter called The Man Who Can't Breathe.
Now, I know it's mainly because I'm more of a jaded horror fan, but I wouldn't call this movie, nor the first two series entries, scary. The only reason they are effective as horror films is because they are bursting at the seams with jump scares – probably more so than any other horror film that doesn't have Paranormal Activity in the title. The Insidious movies have a very basic M.O.: Silence, followed by a strange noise…followed by a foolhardy and ill-prepared investigation, usually with a very poor light source…followed by an "I guess it was nothing" anticlimax…followed immediately by an "Oh my God, I just messed my pants and shrieked like a falsetto!" jump scare with an ear-piercing music sting. I've made the comparison before, but it's like riding a rollercoaster – you still get the intended rush even if you can see the huge drop coming from fifty yards away. However, as with a roller coaster, the scares here have no staying power. I long for those horror films that work to unnerve you, get under your skin, and make you uneasy about being home alone at night. This is not one of those, and I'm truly struggling to recall any moments that really freaked me out.
That critique isn't meant to condemn the film, and it does have its bright spots. While Scott is pretty standard in the possessed girl role, it was cool to see Dermot Mulroney in a horror film, even if he seems to feel a little out of place compared to the rest of the characters. Veteran actress Lin Shaye is just as watchable as in the first two entries, although she gets saddled with some unnatural-sounding "tough guy" lines late in the film. The most entertaining part of the movie comes about two-thirds of the way through, with the introduction/return of Whannell and Sampson as the wannabe-hard but aloof and amiable ghost hunters, who would later team up with Shaye to tackle the Lambert haunting. They provide the most humor, but if you've seen the other movies, it's more of the same.
Very basically, I would put Insidious: Chapter 3 on par with the first two. That is to say, if you had issues with the first two, you'll likely have the same ones here. But if you're one of the many who loved the hell out of the previous films, you'll find much of the same fun to be had.