Synopsis – A prequel set before the haunting of the Lambert family that reveals how gifted psychic Elise Rainier reluctantly agrees to use her ability to contact the dead in order to help a teenage girl who has been targeted by a dangerous supernatural entity.
My Take – The first two installments of the James Wan directed ‘Insidious’ series can easily turn up in any ones list of scariest films of the last decade & of course it made millions for the studio! As expected from horror movies – success of one film means it deserves a sequel no matter what the script is going to be! Perfect example of this could be the already dying Paranormal Activity franchise. While the departure of James Wan (except for a brief cameo) may seem like a bad idea, the writer of this previous installments Leigh Whannell has stepped in to direct the ‘Insidious’ franchise to the next chapter by going back in time to explore the origins of the psychic Elise Rainier (reprised by Lin Shaye). I’ll admit that, I was expecting a lot more from Leigh Whannell’s directorial debut after various genius scripts he has written in this genre (Saw I, II & III, Dead Silence, and the Insidious Chapters 1 & 2) That being said, he has a lot of work to do in the director’s chair still, but this was still a decent effort in this now trilogy. I would be lying though if I said this movie didn’t terrify me at times, and it did admirably and even had me laughing at those moments too at times which worked well in this story and helped lighten it’s mood among the dread at hand here. A scare is much like a joke, tell it too many times and it will lose its charm. The third chapter of Insidious aim to repeat the success of the original with new characters and old proved methods of distributing chill. It has different atmosphere than previous rural haunting plus screeching hymn, which is a nice change of pace. At times it might revert back to repetitive gimmicks, but ultimately the capable cast led by Lin Shaye as they witness the perilous yet private story of a haunted girl manage to fright and fascinate. The film finds the perfect mix of shock & realism! The story takes place a few years before the haunting of the Lambert family depicted in 2010’s Insidious, the prequel begins with teenage Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott) visiting psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) at her home. Moved by the young woman’s pitiable yearning to speak with her dead mother, Elise attempts to make contact, but things quickly become unpleasant and Elise sends the girl away with a stern warning not to try again. Naturally enough, Quinn doesn’t listen to her, and, due to her inattention to ordinary life, soon ends up with two broken legs. Not long after that, she is haunted by an unpleasant ghost, to the consternation of her befuddled father Sean (Dermot Mulroney). Sean can’t see the ghost itself, though the ghost’s muddy footprints finally convince him that something is up, and he begs Elise to help.
As the film takes place before the events of those movies (making it technically a prologue), and shows how Elise herself overcomes the death of a loved one to once again face off against the supernatural by saving Quinn from the evil presence who answers in her mother’s place, and teaming up for the first time with Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), her lovable comic relief sidekicks. It all comes down to the how horrifying this third chapter is. The set-up for horror is exceptionally done for the majority of the film, at several scenes it has some clever ways or perspectives to raise the thrill. However, it’s still plagued by the same flaws of the franchise, such as resorting to screaming jump scares or it might lose steam as it goes further like the original. These rehearsed stuffs are admittedly have worn out their welcome, whether they persistently linger of not. What really nails the horror is the victim, Quinn, as she is gradually gnawed by this malicious existence. In an analogy of a young woman abused, both physically and emotionally, she is shown of losing herself bits by bits. It has a bit of oriental touch as some scenes reminded me of independent horror/thriller, and they work very well in tandem with confident acting of the cast. It’s much easier to invest to their ordeal as it looks so personal. There’s a sense of inevitability that this film like most prequels, never quite shakes off. It doesn’t help that Whannell goes out of his way to foreshadow Elise’s death, especially by throwing in nods or certain appearances (no spoilers) just for the sake of the audience, even though it has no relevance to the story at hand. Yes! the film doesn’t have the same impact as the first two films, it’s only because Whannell doesn’t wave his arms to get our attention. It’s a more effective movie overall, full of grim threats and human drama. After all, if there’s anyone who understands this world, it’s him. He was the one who created the mythology, after all, when he wrote the first film! There’s nothing particularly wrong with the ghost story itself. It makes sense, there’s an internal logic to the way things happen, and Whannell does his best to keep a certain pace up so there are near-constant ghost attacks punctuated by scenes of the characters trying to figure out how to handle them. Quinn’s just not a very interesting character, and the eventual unraveling of her personal haunting is fairly routine stuff if you know the genre. The things that are most interesting here have to do with Elise and her connection to the other side, the Further.
Here’s the biggest problem I have with the film. Over the course of the first two movies, we’ve learned a fair amount about The Further, and it would seem like that’s the other thing we could learn more about in this film. After all, Elise seems intimately familiar with it. But aside from a few brief nods, they talk about it a bit, but we don’t get much time there at all. That should leave the way clear for Elise’s back-story to come to the fore, yet Whannell keeps that pretty sketchy, juggling it along with the less essential Brenner family tale that feels all too familiar, as well as making space for the expected jump scares. It adds up to an extended setup for the first movie. Nevertheless, the movie is pleasant enough to watch, especially in a theater filled with overly-anxious viewers who react to any minor-chord music cue. Lin Shaye is very good on drawing sympathy, she looks fragile yet her on-screen compassionate nature is infectious. She also has a way to convey dread as a sort of more neighborly psychic instead of outright doomsayer. Given the rare chance of a lead role, the actress makes the most of it, demonstrating great confidence as a ghost hunter with no fear of the unknown. The new cast of Brenner family is also presentable. Stefanie Scott as Quinn is believable as an ordinary teen girl, with her typical girl issues and aspirations. The way she might seem plain, not a scream queen, is actually a boon to the movie as she’s so much more relatable. Dermot Mulroney as Sean, Quinn’s father is a great choice. He appears convincing as a father, especially as a single parent who must deal with raising two kids and now the addition of invasive entity. The chemistry between the two as father-daughter is solid, while other supporting characters build up the suspense or deliver a glint of humor between the dark days. On the whole, ‘Insidious: Chapter 3’ may not be as equivalent as the 1st two films but yet it is a solid, fun and chilling creep show that is more concerned with scares than being gross. Director Whannell understands that the best scares often come after the audience has had a quick respite. Well obviously scares are always bigger after your guard has been let down.The fact it’s a prequel means that you can jump into the series with this movie and then get caught up with the first two.
Director – Leigh Whannell
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 97 minutes