'Insidious: Chapter 3'
When ‘Insidious’ was released five years ago, it felt like a bit of a breath of fresh air in the horror genre that avoided graphic torture porn excess and Found-Footage sloppiness trends for a more classically constructed ghost story. By the time ‘Insidious: Chapter 2’ arrived, the sheen had worn off, but it was at least wacky and well made enough to offer some secondary thrills. Now we have ‘Insidious: Chapter 3’, which isn’t exactly horrible but definitely proves that the law of diminishing returns still applies.
Since the last ‘Insidious’ romp wrapped up the Lambert family saga pretty conclusively (and Rose Byrne has become too big a star for a threepeat), ‘Chapter 3’ is actually a prequel. This time, the haunting happens to Stefanie Scott, a sweet teen with a single dad (Dermot Mulroney), an annoying brother, and a dream of being an actress. After a car accident leaves the girl wheelchair-bound, Scott is in the worst possible position to get all haunted up. Of course, that’s exactly what happens. She’s stuck with one of those ‘Insidious’ ghosts from the other side that follows her wherever she goes. Thankfully, she’s aware of Lin Shaye’s psychic, who could offer help if the woman can get over her fear of leaving the house. On top of that, she’s also a big fan of a certain ghost hunter blog made by two geeks (Angus Sampson and writer/director Leigh Whannell) who will be rather familiar to anyone who has seen an ‘Insidious’ flick before. Yes, everyone gets to meet each other this time!
So, the prequel premise for ‘Chapter 3’ isn’t the strongest, but it’s a reasonable foundation for the spectral scare sequences that the movie is being sold on. The last two entries in the franchise left plenty of supernatural shenanigans unexplained, but none of them will get explained here nor should they be. Instead, writer/director/co-star Leigh Whannell adds to the grand narrative by explaining how Shaye and her dumbbell partners met. It’s not exactly a back story that was dying to be told, nor are there any shocking revelations that will change the series forever. However, it’s a better excuse to tag on a part 3 than many of these things get and a reasonable reason to bring back the only recognizable franchise characters who could be talked into returning. Long-time character actress (and Farrelly brothers favorite) Shaye is quite good and surprisingly sincere in the role, so it’s nice to have her back, and Sampson/Whannell were always good for a laugh. Their origin story might not be special, but it’s certainly better than if Whannell had tried to jumpstart the story from scratch.
Truthfully, there’s nothing much to the main narrative worth writing home about. It’s pretty basic broken family stuff. While Scott is decent actress (and actually looks like a teenager, unlike most folks who plays these roles), she doesn’t have much to work with. Whannell clearly wanted to spend most of his screen time on haunting set-pieces and returning characters, so the main plot is really just a placeholder. The scares are thankfully pretty good, especially since the ghoulish hospital patient main villain is pretty brilliantly (and gruesomely) designed.
While Whannell isn’t quite as accomplished a visual stylist as his partner James Wan (who despite his many flaws is supremely gifted at crafting set-pieces, which is why he was off making ‘Furious 7’ while Whannell extended this franchise), he has obviously developed a knack for designing scare sequences through writing previous ‘Insidious’ and ‘Saw’ flicks. He squeezes out some good scares here. Whannell’s directorial style is nowhere near as manic as Wan’s, which might put a few viewers off this more subdued outing, yet when he’s cooking, the first-time filmmaker does a good enough job that he just might find himself stepping into the director’s chair again soon.
The tin-ear dialogue and genre redundancy of the franchise are more prevalent than ever in this largely unnecessary third chapter to the ‘Insidious’ saga. However, those who’ve already bought into the franchise will likely get a few genre jollies out of this, even if it’s undeniably the weakest entry and probably a soft finale.