Director: Leigh Whannell
Starring: Dermot Mulroney, Stefanie Scott, Lin Shaye, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell.
Written by: (also characters created) Leigh Whannell
Running Time: 97 mins
Release date: 5th June 2015
If you are a regular reader of my reviews (and I’d like to thank you for that), then you will know that I have a constant battle with modern horrors. There are some that work extremely well (The Babdook, It Follows, Unfriended) and then there are all the rest. One such series I have major problems with is the Insidious films, in which an ordinary family are haunted by evil entities. A batch of films that steal from the classic like The Haunting and Poltergeist but doesn’t have the smarts to try anything new. Now comes Chapter 3, which is a prequel, which is a marked improvement but not much.
After trying to connect with her dead mother, teenager Quinn goes to visit psychic, Elise Rainer, for help. No longer in that field, Elise notices something strange about Quinn. The dead have latched onto her, especially one very sinister entity. So Elise has to return to her old life in order to save the innocent girl who is being targeted.
Gone are the Lamberts (obviously Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne had better things to do), so instead we get brand new characters, mainly doing the same thing as before but this being a prequel, being done earlier. Writer and director Leigh Whannell, who created this series as well, uses all the trappings of previous films and gives us another Jack-In-The-Box, “it’s behind you!”, quiet,quiet, LOUD! collection of scares. If there’s a dark corner, you’re pretty certain to find something lurking.
It also borrows heavily from other past and more superior horrors. The new family lives in an apartment block not too dissimilar to Rosemary’s Baby or The Sentinel. Even the carpet looks like it’s been ripped out of the Overlook Hotel from The Shining. Yet with all this familiarity going on, with its stock, predictable scares, it does offer something slightly different that surprisingly works: that of a touching subplot.
While Quinn is being targeted but the spirits, turning this aspiring actress who breaks both her legs into a vessel for a spirit that looks like an aging Darth Vader without the mask, we get to know a little more about the only consistent in the series, Elise. The lady with psychic powers has a back story that is, for a horror film like this, quite moving and in one particular scene, (I won’t give it away) you genuinely feel for her.
Even the new family involved, The Brenners, with widowed Sean struggling to keep it together after the death of his wife and relying on his daughter to help out, does bring a little human side to the tale. By making Quinn a young lady, it lacks the annoying brattish feeling you get in most family orientated horror.
The performances for this type of film are fine. The ever reliable Dermot Mulroney is good as Sean, while Stefanie Scoot makes for a decent daughter. Yet the film belongs to Lin Shaye as Elise. Given a much bigger slice of the pie, she relishes in the role, moving neatly from serious psychic to heartbreaking to laugh-out-loud funny. She takes that opportunity she never had in the previous films and runs with it, thus making it much more enjoyable than it has any right to be.
Insidious: Chapter 3 is a marked improvement on the first two films and even though it is still incredibly problematic and lacking in anything close to a genuine scare, it does give deeper dimensions that before and with the help of a strong cast, this didn’t frighten me but I didn’t think it was a total disaster. Alas, like the previous films, I’ll probably struggle to remember a thing about it by next week.