They say third times the charm, although that may not be the case for Insidious: Chapter 3. Writer, director and actor, Leigh Whannel (Saw), takes the reigns of this third instalment, which is scary but doesn’t quite live up to the horror of its predecessors.
Mourning the death of her mother, teenager Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott) seeks the help of the reclusive medium Elise Rainier (Shaye) to help contact her. While resistant at first, Elise decides to help when she senses that the spirit is not actually Quinn’s mother but something else entirely. As this dark force begins to take Quinn, Elise must attempt to save her soul with the help of Quinn’s father (Dermont Mulroney), and paranormal “experts” Specs (Whannel) and Tucker (Angus Sampson).
The most enjoyable part of the film is Shaye herself, as she gets to delve into her character’s past and further flesh out the mysterious psychic. While in the previous films of the series she was relegated to a supporting character, here Shaye truly shines in a role that she has so brilliantly brought to life and she revels in it. At this point, it would be justified to say that Shaye’s Elise has become an iconic character of modern horror.
While lacking the star power of the original Insidious and Chapter 2’s Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, both Scott and Mulroney do well to bring a strong screen presence. Scott’s Quinn is likeable and it would be hard not to empathise with her emotional journey as she finds herself falling prey to the demonic presence. Mulroney on the other hand is not given much more to play than a character that could easily described with one word: father. He’s left to say the expected things like, “Save my daughter!” and “What’s happening?”, but doesn’t serve much other purpose, apart from being the necessary doesn’t-believe-until-it’s-too-late character.
Whannel delivers some decent scares by utilising silence, although not many compare to the originals. A couple of jump scares are quite effective but most are more disturbing than frightening. The new main ghoul, ‘The Man Who Can’t Breathe’ (Michael Reid Mackay) is fairly creepy though, as the film continues, begins to lose some of that scare factor.
The weakest element of the film is its attempt to connect and capitalise on the previous instalments. As a prequel, the plot attempts to connect and foreshadow many of the parts of Chapters 1 and 2, although it’s not done in an imaginative way. The haunting of the Brenner family is nothing that hasn’t already be seen before, and leaves Elise making the decision to help and then not help happen about three times in the film, seemingly to stretch out the plot. The first meeting of Elise with Specs and Tucker was interesting, and here their comedy is toned down slightly which is good, although it leaves a bitter after taste that this could have all be done much more creatively.
Also, the films attempt to wedge in fan favourite ghosts: the Bride in Black and Lipstick-Face Demon, makes some sense but would leave new-comers scratching their heads as to what relevance they have. After having spent two films revealing more about each of these characters backstories, their overexposure has left little to scare with. It’s also disappointing that the Lipstick-Face Demon is yet again only teased without offering something more than having him pop up every now and then. Especially seeing that a possible Chapter 4 would be another prequel, leaving the consistent hints of his importance to never actually lead anywhere.
While fans of the franchise may be slightly disappointed, Insidious: Chapter 3’s scares should prove enough to keep most audiences on the edge of their seats, although allowing Shaye to return once more to summon her inner strength against demonic forces is well worth the price of admission.