Directed and written by Leigh Whannell. Produced by Jason Blum, Oren Peli, and James Wan. Release date: June 5, 2015.
It might just be because the Poltergeist remake was so abysmal, but I found myself not wanting to tear my eyeballs from my sockets while watching Insidious: Chapter 3, which I guess is as close to an endorsement as one can typically have for the third installment of a horror franchise. No, not all third chapters in horror series are bad, but it sure feels that way. About the only good one that immediately comes to mind is Saw III, and that might only be because of its tangential connection to the Insidious franchise.
That connection, for those unaware, came from the filmmaking duo of James Wan and Leigh Whannell. The former directed both Saw and the first and second Insidious films, while the latter wrote the first three Saw flicks as well as all three (to-date) Insidious films. Whannell also takes over directorial duties this time around, replacing Wan mostly in name, if not style. Having worked so closely together over the last decade, it’s understandable that Whannell’s directorial style closely mirrors that of his more established friend.
Insidious: Chapter 3 is actually a prequel to the first two films, taking place several years before the haunting of the Lambert family. This time around, the target of a demon is Quinn (Stefanie Scott), a teenager who tried to contact her dead mother, but wound up having a demon haunting her instead. Why? It’s really not clear, and I guess it doesn’t matter. You’re here to watch a girl get haunted by a demon who takes the form of a decomposing old man with a breathing mask, and what you get is a movie in which a girl gets haunted by a demon who takes the form of a decomposing old man with a breathing mask.
Returning from the previous films is Elise (Lin Shaye), a psychic who has battled demons before, and if the movie is a success, will no doubt battle them again. Other primary characters come in the form of Quinn’s father (Dermot Mulroney), who is such an important character that I can’t remember if he’s ever given a name, and the two comic relief characters from the first two films, Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (Whannell).
It’s not torturous to sit through, it’s not going to bore you, and it might even creep you out a little bit.
You know, it bugs me a little bit that there even are comic relief characters in this series, let alone ones who have become recurring. Insidious: Chapter 3 does a lot of things relatively well, but the moment those characters show up, it becomes almost impossible to take seriously. But, then again, it also turns Lin Shaye into an action hero after this point – even going so far as to give her “cool “one-liners to spout – so maybe it’s not even fair to blame them. There’s a bit of comedy scattered throughout the film, but it only becomes almost full comedy near the end, which is too bad. Its climax is where it should be its scariest, not its least serious.
There’s a lot of strong atmosphere building, too. Sure, most of it just leads up to jump startles – which do not frighten – but it earns some of these, and it’s likely to keep you at least somewhat on-edge as it plays – until it ruins all of that with a late-game tonal shift, of course. The horror imagery is strong – as is the use of typical iconography – the demons are created with some wonderful makeup, the cinematography is slick, and the acting isn’t terrible. My standards for horror movies aren’t exactly the highest right now, and Insidious: Chapter 3 meets at least the minimum of what I’d accept, save for how it ruins it all near the end.
If the job of a prequel is to try to expand the mythos of its franchise, clarifying some things that previously went unexplained, then Insidious: Chapter 3 is a disappointment. About the only thing it does explain is how Elise and the ghost hunters became a group, and I feel like that’s not something we needed. Even the demon’s logic in this film is just kind of passed over; they try to explain why Quinn is being haunted but trail off and forget about it. I’d like to know more about the Further, but maybe it’s scarier if it remains a mystery.
I’ll take Insidious: Chapter 3 over Poltergeist 10 times out of 10. It’s not torturous to sit through, it’s not going to bore you, and it might even creep you out a little bit. Sure, it falls apart at the end, but the journey to get to that point isn’t terrible. And “isn’t terrible” is, for wide-release horror in 2015, almost a recommendation.
Bottom Line: A decent horror movie with an awkward tonal shift near the end and an overall unnecessary feeling, Insidious: Chapter 3 will serve to scare you but do little more.
Recommendation: I don’t think Insidious: Chapter 3 is worth seeing, but it’s better than the second one, and if you’re a fan of the series, you’ll want to check it out.[rating=2.5]