Very rarely is an original surpassed by its sequel, let alone its prequel
After the recent loss of her mother, teenage Quinn Brennan tries to seek closure by contacting psychic Elise Rainier. Unbeknownst to her darker things lie on the other side, desperate to cross over.Insidious: Chapter 3 is a prequel to the first two films taking place a few years after Elise’s first encounter with Josh Lambert, a young boy plagued by a chilling woman dressed in black, which ultimately results in Elise bowing out of the psychic game for good. The story follows Quinn Brennan (Stefanie Scott) as she reaches out to Elise for help in contacting her recently deceased mother. Refusing to help, Quinn is left to try on her own to speak with her mother but gets a lot more than she bargained for.Leigh Whannell makes his directorial debut with the third instalment of the Insidious franchise. Having previously written the first two chapters along with James Wan, Whannell is more than familiar with the ideas and formulas of this franchise. Whannell not only directs Insidious: Chapter 3, he also makes a come back as Specs, the geeky ghost hunter from the first two. James Wan (Fast & Furious 7) who directed Chapters 1 and 2 this time lends his hand as the producer and takes on a small role within the film.
Scott’s performance as a young girl trying to find her place in the world whilst simultaneously juggling her education with helping her father raise her younger brother is believable in this modern age of young people taking on more responsibility within the household. Her performance as she describes the loss of her mother at the beginning is touching and acted superbly without ever seeming over the top or choreographed. Dermot Mulroney plays recently widowed father of two Sean Brenner, giving a convincing performance as a father trying to run a household and provide for his family. Mulroney adds just enough of the ‘out of touch’ dad routine to lend a humorous quality whilst being sensitive at the same time. Younger brother Alex, played by Tate Berney, doesn’t feature heavily within the film but is present enough to drive the story forward when needed. The ghost busting duo of Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (Leigh Whannell) provide just enough comedy relief without coming across as tacky and remain true to form much like they were in the first two films, only this time a bit younger.
However it really is Lin Shaye’s performance as Elise that steals the show. We are shown a completely different side to the Elise we know from the first two films, one that is much more sensitive and fragile. Struggling to come to terms with her recently departed husband, Elise finds herself becoming a hermit within the four walls of her home. Refusing to take on any new clientele as a psychic, Elise finds herself touched by Quinn’s story and takes a chance by deciding to help the young girl reach out to her mother but soon realises that something darker is lurking on the other side for Quinn. Eventually realising that she has no choice but to help Quinn and her family, before it’s too late, Elise steps up to the mark and goes head first back into the world she calls ‘The Further’.
I personally would argue that this third instalment in the Insidious trilogy is by far the most superior. It feels much more refined with a focus on developing the story at the centre of the film whilst also allowing other side stories to come to the surface without detracting from the main subject at hand. The neighbours of the Brennan family each have their own story to tell which adds to and drives the central story forward. There is the elderly couple, Harry and Grace, who have something profound to give to the narrative and there is Quinn’s love interest, Hector, who although a small part, contributes in his own way to the film's tense pace. Quinn’s best friend Maggie (Hayley Kiyoko), a somewhat crazy and slightly outrageous character (an unintentional reference to her next role in Jem and The Holograms), also has a small role but again, helps to evolve the pace and suspense of the film.
It does have its predictable moments but even those aren’t exactly what you would expect.
Insidious: Chapter 3 cultivates its scares tactfully and at a pace that keeps the viewer engaged from the very beginning. The film is 98 minutes in duration but manages to feel a lot longer, in the best possible way. At no point does the film feel rushed or irrelevant, there are no moments where you’re wondering ‘what’s the point of this?’. Everything has its purpose for motivating and progressing the story. The back stories of the characters come together nicely to add an additional level of emotion to the film, which I originally thought wasn’t necessary, but rethinking this, I now feel it adds more depth to the characters.
Insidious: Chapter 3 blends the good points from the first two films along with elements reminiscent of films such as The Exorcist and Poltergeist (the original) to form something first time director Whannell should be proud of. The camera work in Insidious: Chapter 3 is excellent, utilising slow zooms to emphasise the despair of the characters and the perfect framing allows the viewer the scope of the screen to search for the next jump. No frenzied camera work is used, everything feels clean and streamlined, fitting perfectly within the film's style. The attention to detail in this film is amazing and really helps set the scene and tone for the characters.
The use of diegetic sound to develop tension is brilliant as it doesn’t rely heavily on loud noises for those typical ‘canned’ jumps. The slightly jarring music used in the first two films isn’t depended on as much here, but is used in small doses to add to the effect. Shadows are used throughout the film to bring the idea of the darker ‘other’ world to the surface, which visually creates a world within a world inside the Brennan apartment - where a majority of the film takes place. The effects used feel subtle and understated not giving away too much too soon, which is ultimately what makes this film, in my opinion, better than the first two. There are moments which seem a bit cliched or cheesy but this can be forgiven in the grand scheme of things.
You don’t need to have seen the first two films to enjoy Insidious: Chapter 3 but if you have there are details you will be familiar with which tie all three together, in the same vein as the second film. However, as a good scary film, Insidious: Chapter 3 can definitely hold its own.
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.