‘Insidious: Chapter 3’ doesn’t elicit the same fear of its predecessors
One of most enjoyable aspects of the first two “Insidious” films was Lin Shaye’s character, Elise Rainier. The powerful psychic who more or less saves the day is engaging, a well-crafted portrayal of someone who honestly just wants to help save the afflicted from their demons (both real and perceived).
But somewhere along the way in “Insidious: Chapter 3,” in which she returns in a much more prominent role, something just doesn’t fall into place. Maybe it’s the lack the original scares or yet another family in need of supernatural help, but, I think when it comes right down to it, “Chapter 3” just isn’t scary, and no amount of wonderful Shaye is going to save the day.
Directed by Leigh Whannell (who wrote the first two movies), “Chapter 3” doesn’t stray far from what it knows. (It would be best if you watched the first two chapters, but it’s not completely necessary to appreciate the third.)a
The movie does add a touch of melancholy that wasn’t present in the first installments, which works quite nicely in this tale of regret and sadness. While the first two films focused on a family that simply didn’t understand what was going on, “Chapter 3” takes an more emotional approach. Here, everyone — from the heroes to the demons — is suffering in one miserable way or another. The characters’ sense of loss, and how they go about dealing with it, is one of the movie’s few saving graces.
The premise centers around Quinn (Stefanie Scott), a high school student dealing with the recent death of her mother from cancer. She seeks out Elise in order to commune with her mother after her own attempts at supernatural communication failed (though she says she does feel a presence). Elise, donned in a depressing-looking bathrobe, tells her she no longer partakes in her particular trade. (We learn the sad reason why later on.) But Elise relents, and reaches out to the spirit world.
As it turns out, the entity Quinn is feeling isn’t her mother; it’s something far more sinister, a soul that feels no remorse for the horrible acts it inspires. But Quinn’s family doesn’t quite appreciate the danger of the situation, even after black-tar footprints start to mysteriously appear. Her father, Sean (Dermot Mulroney), is suffering under the heavy strain of caring for his family on his own; her brother, Alex (Tate Berney), serves as the typical annoying family member.
Some time passes when Quinn finds herself on the wrong end of a brutal car accident, leaving her wheelchair-bound with two broken legs. What scare factor remains stems mainly from Quinn’s sense of helplessness as more violent supernatural events transpire around her and her family.
As chaos begins to swirl around the family, Quinn and her family reach out to Elise while her brother finds a duo on YouTube who might be able to provide some help: Specs (Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), the pair from the first two films who help Elise.
The fear in the first two film (the first, especially) is suffocating. Its slow creep just continuously amps up until every little sound has you on edge. Not so much with “Chapter 3.” But to give credit when it’s due, Wharnell nails the use of silence to accentuate fright. The movie’s best moments resonate because they use the power of silence as a sharp contrast to the terrifying sounds that tend to follow. (This style also played well in the first two films.)
In the end, “Insidious: Chapter 3” is a bit of a mixed bag, one with too much of the healthful stuff and not enough chocolate. Its tense atmosphere and other-worldly scenes do the previous films justice, but for those who’d already seen those films, you’re not really going to be caught off-guard by the spooks.
Two “That’s not how you remove a cast” stars out of five.