After the enjoyably scary first instalment, Insidious: Chapter 2 felt like a quick rush-job of a movie that director James Wan threw together in a couple of months after The Conjuring before leaving the horror genre (something he’s now gone back on). Now Wan’s moved on with his career – and ended up making the 5th biggest movie of all time – he’s handed over the directorial reins to Leigh Whannell, his longtime collaborator and series writer (though he remains a producer).
Pleasingly, Whannell seems a lot more invested in the notion of an Insidious sequel than Wan was, as this third instalment is a considerable improvement on the awful second movie, though admittedly not as good as the original.
Importantly for a haunted-house movie such as this, Whannell proves himself to be every bit as effective as Wan in generating a good, old-fashioned jump scare, and he fills the movie with them. While many are obviously aided by some nifty sound editing, they nearly all work well and aren’t ever just cop outs introducing a previously unseen cat or something. I’d imagine seeing this in a packed cinema would make for a slightly more exciting experience than watching it at home alone (as I did) due to the frequency and startling potential of the frights.
Despite its title, Insidious: Chapter 3 is actually a prequel to the previous two movies, taking place a few years prior to the events in the original. This time the nominal main character is a teenage girl called Quinn (Stefanie Scott) who begins experiencing supernatural events in her house where she lives with her widowed father (Dermot Mulroney).
Returning from the original movies is Lin Shaye as Elise Rainier, a medium who comes to assist Quinn. Alongside her is goofy investigator duo Tucker and Specs (Angus Sampson and Whannell himself), with this film providing a sort-of origin story for how they came to be working together. Lin Shaye’s medium is really the heart of the film, and she brings a maternal warmth and authority to proceedings with her performance. Her presence is unfortunately not matched by the other actors.
As fun as many of the aforementioned frights are, it’s the bits in-between them that are the issue with Insidious Chapter 3. Quinn and her father are not especially interesting characters and the first hour or so of the movie features numerous dull and unengaging scenes that are then spiced up with a good jump.
It does at least pick up considerably for its final act, which features a more memorable supernatural showdown as Elise takes on the demon that’s possessed Quinn. Overall though, I don’t think we really need another Insidious movie after this, but Whannell’s ability to craft capable scares and startling imagery have me interested to where he’ll next turn his directorial hand.