Review: Insidious: Chapter 3

Insidious: Chapter 3
Kelly M. Hudson

Insidious1Few things divide my horror friends and me than the Insidious movies. I’ll lump in The Conjuring and the Paranormal Activity movies under this same umbrella. These friends—and these are good, decent, horror-loving pals, who adore the classics and mostly agree with my tastes in terror—stare at me in disbelief when I heap praise on the movies I’ve listed above. The usual response is:

“Dude, the ghost creature looked like Darth Maul. It was dumb.”

And I usually agree. Yeah, if you look at the “monster” in the first Insidious film, he does kinda look like Darth Maul. But he also doesn’t. It’s a matter of the coloring, not the design, in my eyes.

But I digress.

When it comes to these kinds of movies, the general consensus is you either love them or hate them. Very few people have a “meh” reaction. As you can tell from what I wrote above, I love them, and with that said, if you are a fan of the previous Insidious films, then you will love this one. If not, there’s nothing here that’s going to change your mind.

So this is a prequel, and that’s usually thorny ground for any franchise to explore (just ask Lucas and his villain Darth Maul), mostly because a lot of suspense is taken out of the equation. If the prequel features characters from the other movies, you know they’re going to live, or die if that be the case, so a lot of the threat is taken away, and thus a majority of the emotional connection you can experience with a film. This prequel features mostly new characters, so it bypasses such concerns, for the most part. When the main character—Elise Rainier (played with verve and spunk by Lin Shaye)—starts to interact with the new characters, you know Elise is going to live, and the same goes with minor characters Specs and Tucker, the “ghostbusters” (played by returning champions Angus Sampson and director/writer Leigh Whannell). But that doesn’t really matter, because even though they are threatened, the main victim is young Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott, terrific in her role), a teenager on the cusp of graduating high school and heading out into the world to finally live her life. The problem for Quinn is that her mother died recently, and she’s missing her presence, so when Quinn starts noticing odd, paranormal behavior happening around her, she thinks it’s her mother, returning to offer her comfort and guidance, things she feels lacking from her father, Sean (played by Dermot Mulroney, with just the right amount of finesse and muscle). Suffice it to say, it’s not her Mom speaking from the grave, but a dangerous entity bent on possessing and stealing Quinn’s soul. Only a reluctant Elise can save the day, but not without help from Specs and Tucker, who she meets here for the first time.


I’m not going to get into any more of the plot; to do so would be to give away too much. I will tell you, however, that all the spooky tricks of the first two films are in this one, as well as many more. There’s lots of jump scares but plenty of suspense added to the mix. This movie, like the others, isn’t based on tricking you into jumping, but building just the right atmosphere to get your blood pumping (or, as a girl sitting behind me said out loud, with no reservation, “Oh, fuck,” while waiting for the other shoe to drop during a particularly tense scene). Whannell is great at misdirection, leading you one way only to wallop you from left field. This was more than evidenced by individual viewers at the showing I attended. Lots of times wise, wizened horror film veterans would shout out, trying to impress their friends, “Oh, this is going to happen next, watch.” And sure enough, every time, Whannell frustrated their expectations. It was in small ways (look to that knocking on the wall scene about halfway through the movie as a prime example) but I think that these small moves are important. They keep a jaded audience on its toes and clues them in right away that this isn’t going to be a typical ride.

Is this a revolution in horror? No, and it doesn’t try to be. Just like the other two films, this movies sets out to scare you, to create a Spookshow Atmosphere, and it succeeds in almost all respects. The ending was a little too schmaltzy for my tastes, but the movie earned its ending, so it’s not false or pandering in the least. It also sets up further sequels, so suck on that, haters.

If you want to see a fun, scary movie that is a thrill ride with a heart, you can’t do much better than Insidious: Chapter 3. I think it’s better than part 2 but not quite as good as the first one, but Lin Shaye kicks ass in this installment, and it’s fun to watch her character really let loose as she takes center stage for the first time. Oh, and she has a line that rivals the line Ripley has at the end of Aliens, if you can believe that, and when she delivered it, the audience I saw the movie with cheered out loud.

And that’s an important note to end this on: see this movie with an audience. It’s much more fun to watch in a theater than at home, and much scarier.

Three stars out of Four


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