The Insidious series is back with Chapter 3, a prequel taking place “years before the Lambert haunting”. It was a smart move to go with a prequel rather than a laboured continuation (much like Chapter 2). This instalment is an excellent stand-alone film in the series. Although it does follow a different family (the Brenners), there are many references to the Lambert storyline. However, these references don’t subtract or derail the main focus but rather work quite well to create an Insidious triptych.
Written and directed by Leigh Whannell (who also co-stars), Insidious Chapter 3 shines a spotlight on veteran psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) as she helps take down an evil entity that has targetted teenager Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott). What makes this chapter different from its predecessors is that there is more emphasis on the emotional journey of these characters rather than just upping the creepy factor one more notch. This is where Lin Shaye really carries the film. We know from the other films that she is fearless and geniunely wants to help people who are being hurt by these entities. That was not always the case as we see in Chapter 3.
A year after her husband’s suicide, Elise has retired from her psychic duties out of fear. Whenever she tries to go into The Further (the film’s name for the other side), there is an evil female entity who is hellbent on killing Elise (this entity is the old woman that haunts the Lamberts in the previous chapters). But when Quinn and her family experience violent events (beginning with Quinn getting hit by a car), Elise understands it is her job to help because she’s the only one who can. This triumph over one’s internal struggle is commonplace in movies but it is not always shown as effectively in horror as we see here. Again, this is greatly due to the fact Lin Shaye has obviously committed to her role.
Overall, the acting was quite good throughout the film. Stefanie Scott does well in holding her own. She doesn’t let her character become the standard teenage girl in distress; she is more fully developed. Her fear and anxiety of the supernatural events in the film are believable, and her frustration and loneliness as a result of her mother’s death are understandable, which makes her demonic possession all the more powerful at the climax of the film. It’s a loss of innocence and loss of self.
Mr Brenner (Dermot Mulroney) does a decent job of the father not only internalising the death of his wife but also being overwhelmed with life as a single parent. Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson (Specs and Tucker respectively) bring some comedy relief without going overboard and ruining the mood. As for the others, Quinn’s friends Maggie (Hayley Kiyoko) and Hector (Ashton Moio), and even her brother Alex (Tate Berney) should have had more impact but overall weren’t exactly memorable, mostly because their screen times were very limited.
Although the film has a number of jump scares, it’s not solely reliant on them to frighten the audience. The sound editing creates a great atmosphere and the cinematography uses shadows and darkness well. The first half of the film can feel a bit slow in places and there’s a slight deus-ex-machina resolution at the end (there were strong hints that it was coming but still felt too contrived). It’s not groundbreaking in any way but it is effective and, most importantly, it’s entertaining.
Some of the imagery and special effects used were excellent. For example, the evil entity referred to as The Man Who Can’t Breathe takes on the form of a old man wearing an oxygen mask as if on life support. His movements are slow and heavy as if it’s a huge effort for him will his body to move. Of course this is just for show as he’s an extremely powerful entity who likes to play with his victims.
(Minor Spoilers below)
Some stand out moments include:
This half-human abomination with no face or hands or feet, slowly making its way towards Quinn.
The Man Who Can’t Breathe making an appearance inside Quinn’s throat.
A tender moment between the demonic entity and the soul of the innocent girl he won’t let go.
And this familiar face.
If the Insidious series ended here (and it really should) then Chapter 3 would be a strong closer. Chapter 2 tried too hard to be scary and fast paced and it just didn’t work. But this final instalment has redeemed the series and brought back exactly what was needed: good writing and the right amount of fear. It is not the best horror film ever made but it is solid and will surely satisfy its fans.