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Insidious Chapter 3 (2015)

| June 5, 2015 | 0 Comments

There are a lot of baffling things about Insidious Chapter 3, and it would be fair to say that they begin with the movie’s title. This is the second-sequel to the 2011 cult hit, but it’s a prequel – meaning that it’s not technically Chapter 3, so wouldn’t it be Chapter Zero?  Or Chapter 0.1?  Apparently, the filmmakers know how confusing that is because they pre-stamp their story with the on-screen message that this movie takes place “A few years before the Lambert haunting.” It’s frustrating, but it’s wrapped around a movie that has just as many pleasures as it does pains, so you don’t mind so much.

To start, despite my rating, let me say that this is the best entry in the series; it’s the most focused and has the best attempts at actually telling a story. That may have something to do with a shift in directors. Saw director James Wan directed the previous two, but passed on this movie in order to direct Furious Seven. That means that the director reigns are handed over to series co-writer Leigh Whannell. Having seen the entire series, I’m confident in saying that Whannell is the better director. Where Wan used his palette as a springboard for jump scares, Whannell is more interested in telling a story with interesting characters. He’s also more patient when it comes to the reveal of the spooky stuff.  The first Insidious was a workable but by-the-numbers haunted house movie.  The second movie, Insidious Chapter 2 was an over-extended epilogue to the first movie.  The Third movie’s purpose is to tell us how the psychic Elise Rainier got into the ghost-busting business with sidekicks Tucker and Specs – they were the team that assisted in the haunting in the previous two films.

When we meet Elise she’s living a quiet life of solitude.  She’s in mourning a year after her husband’s suicide. She’s given up her psychic reading business and put a padlock on the Reading Room door. Into her quiet world comes Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott), a pretty teenager who is also in mourning – she just lost her mother to breast cancer. Quinn wants Elise to try and contact her mother so that she can properly say goodbye. Elise reluctantly agrees but in contacting the spirit world, she allows something wicked to cross over. Not only does it cross over, but it latches itself onto Quinn and won’t let go. After a traffic accident that leaves her with two broken legs, Quinn finds that every night is a fight for survival. The spirit enters her world, leaves cracks in the ceiling and goopy footprints on the floor when it’s not thrashing her around the room.

Naturally, Elise is happy to step in to help, especially after Quinn’s father (Dermot Mulroney) calls in two bumbling ghost hunters who use their technological equipment to get a look at what they’re dealing with. If you’ve seen the other two movies, then you pretty much know what happens here. Elise enters The Further (that’s what she calls the spirit world) in order to deal with whatever is tormenting poor Quinn.

Actually, up until the spooky stuff starts, the movie is pretty good. We get a nice portrait of a family struggling in the aftermath of tragedy. Scott gives a good performance as a girl trying to deal with her mother’s death on a spiritual level, and Mulroney is equally good as a father trying to deal with his wife’s death on a practical level. We feel his pain having to deal with a daughter who is being haunted by a bullying evil spirit – that’s what it is, a bullying spirit, especially when it wheels the injured girl into an empty apartment and dumps her out of her wheelchair.  Those scenes work and so do some subtle moments that reveal the terrors slowly, where the other films overused jump scares and stingers on the soundtrack for effect.

Where the movie steps wrong is in some of the basic fundamental story elements. Supporting characters are introduced and then disappear without a word. Plot threads are begun and never finished. And we get the same journey through The Further that we got before, wrapped up in all kinds of demon faces and jump scares.  It goes on too long.  And it stumbles in continuity – Elise recognizes The Woman in Black, but she met her for the first time in the first movie.

No to mention, this movie is really dark.  I mean really dark.  Even the daylight scenes seem dingy.  There’s a major effort on the part of the cinematographer to keep everything under-lit so that some scenes that should take place in bright light feel like they’re being shot in a closet.

Plus, there’s a fundamental problem. The last film, 2013’s Insidious Chapter 2 ended on a cliffhanger. This being a prequel, it appears that we’ll have to wait a while for that open door ending to get a resolution. The previous films focused on the haunting of The Lambert family, but this isn’t a story about them. Instead it focuses on Elise and how she got into the ghostbusting business with Tucker and Specs.  How they form a partnership is one of the best pleasures of the movie, and it makes you want to see a film where she’s getting to know them, maybe Insidious Chapter 3.5?

All of those problems aside, there is something here.  There are likable characters, there are some really effective scary scenes and there is a very good performance by veteran actress Lin Shaye.  She’s has been acting in movies for 40 years, but has never gotten credit for her work.  She’s one of those faces that you’ve seen a million times but you never knew her name.  After all this time, she’s finally gotten a part that she can sink her teeth into.  It’s a good role and a good performance.  However, it is in a movie that I have so many problems with.  It’s not a bad movie, just a troubled one.    If you must see a horror movie this weekend, then Insidious Chapter 3 is the better choice, flaws and all – at least it’s a ghost story with actual ghosts.  The guys who made the Poltergeist remake couldn’t even be bothered to give us that tiny detail.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2015) View IMDB Filed in: Horror, Recent