Insidious: Chapter 3, 2015.
Directed by Leigh Whannell.
Starring Lin Shaye, Dermot Mulroney, Stefanie Scott, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson and Tate Berney.
A few years before the haunting of the Lambert family, psychic Elise Rainier is called upon to help a teenage girl try to contact her dead mother.
It would be very easy to lump the Insidious movies together with every other modern production line ghost/supernatural horror movie that seems to pop up with unnerving regularity every week, given that they tick the boxes for what mainstream audiences require from their horror movies, but series creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell have enough savvy to get a little bit more fright out of their scripts and not just go through the motions. Wan moved on after the divisive Insidious: Chapter 2 to try his luck at action movies with Furious 7 (although he does cameo here and get a producer credit) so his partner-in-crime Leigh Whannell stepped up to direct this third instalment, and while it doesn’t break any new ground in terms of story or effects, there is a case to be made that this prequel could be the best of the series so far.
A lot of that praise comes down to Lin Shaye as the psychic Elise Rainier. Shaye really shows off her range and shines as she carries the film and holds your attention. Of course, it helps that we already know her character from the first two films but here we get to see how Elise became that person and why she decided to give up using her powers before she got involved with the Lambert family.
And before she got involved with them she was helping out troubled teen Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott – Wreck It Ralph) who goes to Elise to help her contact her dead mother. Left to raise her younger brother Alex (Tate Berney) and keep house for her busy father Sean (Dermot Mulroney – Young Guns), Quinn believes her mother is trying to contact her but when Elise tries to make that connection she brings a malevolent spirit into our world that latches onto Quinn and begins to terrorise her in the hopes of keeping her for itself in the murky realms of The Further. Elise initially refuses to get involved in helping Quinn out of fear so Sean enlists the help of Specs (Leigh Whannell – Saw) and Tucker (Angus Sampson – Mad Max: Fury Road), a pair of incompetent internet ghost hunters, but once Elise realises what is at stake she joins the fight to help stop Sean losing his daughter to the spirits of The Further.
As previously stated, Insidious: Chapter 3 doesn’t break any new ground and keeps well within the mythology created for the first two movies, but writer/director Whannell goes a little darker and edgier than before, channelling the 1970s and’80s vibe that the previous films did but this one is more The Exorcist than the first film’s Poltergeist worship in terms of tone. And whereas the second film tried to obviously expand on the mythology, here Whannell keeps it simple and doesn’t bring in anything that holds up the story, sticking to a ‘less-is-more’ style of directing that keeps things moving along without you having to think too hard about what is happening.
As well as Lin Shaye’s anchoring performance, credit must also go to Stefanie Scott as Quinn, who lends the film a real emotional depth with her portrayal of a mourning teenager desperate to speak to her mother one last time, and after what Whannell puts her through she thoroughly deserves our sympathies, as do the other characters (although Dermot Mulroney’s awkward performance is a little less engaging). It’s also fun to see how Elise gets to team up with Specs and Tucker to make the ghostbusting trio that we met in the previous films.
Overall, Insidious: Chapter 3 is a solid horror movie that should please those already invested in its mythology but be warned – you need to have seen the first two films before going into this one. Once you’ve done that, come back to this and enjoy the darker, moodier tone that permeates its shocks and creepy imagery (although the very last shot is pushing it a little bit, despite being not wholly unexpected), and also hope that further instalments don’t take the franchise down the route of lowest common denominator blandness that the makers of mainstream horror movies rely upon at the moment.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★ ★