"Insidious: Chapter 3" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
James Wan's two "Insidious" films both terrified and thrilled audiences, but leaned into the parody territory and contained some ridiculously cheesy scenes at times. However, Wan's friend and frequent collaborator, Leigh Whannel, delivers a third installment in the franchise that is more cheesy and laughable than terrifying or remotely scary. From uninspired jump scares to ridiculous plot lines and horror imagery, this film, which serves as a prequel to the previous two installments, is a definite misfire on numerous different levels.
The movie takes place a few years before the haunting of the Lambert family, which was the main focus of the first two chapters of the "Insidious" franchise. The third chapter focuses on Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott), a high schooler who is still reeling from the untimely death of her mom due to cancer. She approaches Dr. Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye), who was the paranormal expert that helped the Lambert family solve their problem in the first two films.
When Quinn starts to reach out to her deceased mother, she ignores Rainier's warning that all of the dead can hear her cries of attention. Because of that, an evil demon latches on to Quinn's body, injuring her physically and breaking down her mental psyche until she is fully under the demonic spell it casts. Because of this, her dad (Dermont Mulroney) is forced to contact two ghost hunters, Spec (Whannel) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) to help Rainier get his daughter out of the possessed state she is unfortunately in.
The biggest difference between this movie compared to the other installments in this franchise is the tone and vibe surrounding this movie. Whannel and Wan have written movies like Saw and the first two films in this series together, with Wan directing their collaborative films. By doing that, he is able to add his own style to the horror movies, which is usually very dark and dreary. Whannel, on the other hand, takes this film in the complete opposite direction. It's light, airy, and upbeat through most of it, and barely scratches the surface of the darkness that Wan goes down in his movies. This wouldn't be a problem however, as every director has a different style of filmmaking, but when there is such a dramatic shift in tone and vibe, it ruins the horror and thrilling aspect to it.
As a result of that, all of the horror elements and jump scares seem almost laughable and very uninspired. Wan is credited for having some of the most terrifying jump scares in modern horror cinema, and the ones present here don't do his previous films justice. Consider the last jump scare in the movie, where the Red Demon from the first movie pops up behind Rainier. He makes this stupid looking face and is combined with a dramatic and ridiculous crescendo in music. It is not scary whatsoever, and it is definitely hard not to laugh at the final jolt in the movie. That's what this whole movie is really kind of like, and even then, it's very light on the horror and jump scare elements.
In my review for the first "Insidious", I mentioned how the story was kind of all over the place and not very structured. However, after viewing this film, I feel I was way too harsh on the first installment. This movie tries to tell a story, but fails on a massive level. It either doesn't do enough to progress the main story on, or tries too hard to incorporate certain elements from previous films to relate the three together. For example, why is the demon that haunts the Lambert family so prominent in this film when it doesn't turn out to be any major threat to any of the main characters?
At the same time, the story can't really establish what it exactly wants to be. It wants to be a movie that inspires those going through tough times, but also wants to shock and scare the audiences. Unfortunately, it fails massively at both of these different aspects, and in result, really ruins everything the film is trying to go for.
The performances in this movie are very wooden and two-dimensioned. There is nothing for the viewers to grasp on to appreciate and care for these characters, nor do we learn about who they are and what they truly want. I would say though, I do really enjoy some of the humorous segments between Specs and Tucker. Whannel and Wan teased this a little in the first and second films, but Whannel gave them full-on comedic dialogue that is pretty fun to watch throughout the huge rest of this mess.
Overall, I think this series overstayed its welcome. This prequel was definitely unneeded, and the series could have easily stayed as a duology. Whether they went for money or they think they actually had a compelling sequel to kickstart another branch of this franchise, I don't know. But, if they actually wanted to make a film that is compelling to fans and wanted to save this franchise from death, they certainly failed at that task.