Eye For Film >> Movies >> Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015) Film Review
What do you do when you realise you've killed off the character your fans loved most? Many horror franchise teams would respond by finding a cheesy way to resurrect that character through supernatural means. The Insidious team has, thankfully, taken a different route, and so we get a prequel. There's a folkloric aspect to the story of Elise, the medium murdered in the first film, as we see events set in motion that will lead to her death; as, aware of how her doom is unfolding, we watch her choose a path that still feels like the right one.
At the start of this prequel, Elise is in retirement. Recently widowed, she feels that she no longer has the strength to venture into the Further, the land of the dead, especially when she knows there's a spirit out there who is determined to kill her. But like an old gunslinger or jaded bank robber, she finds herself persuaded to take on one last job. The reason for this is Quinn (Stefanie Scott), a young woman experiencing similar loss of confidence after the death of her mother. Hers is a very ordinary tale. She's finishing high school; she wants to go to theatre school; the big, wide world is an intimidating place. She just wants to talk to her mum. Elise understands. But, she warns, "When you call out to one of the dead, all of them can hear you."
It's great to see a horror film carried by a middle aged woman, and Lin Shays is more than capable, though she has an awkward balance to strike between playing the formidable vanquisher of demons and preserving the woman-next-door quality that makes her so endearing. Opposite her, Scott struggles a little but just about manages to hold her own. For part of the film, Quinn is disabled and faces significant challenges in moving around. Refreshingly, director Whannell (who also plays the amicable would-be ghosthunter Specs) doesn't just exploit this to increase the sense of peril (though he certainly makes us aware of her increased vulnerability), but illustrates the day to day challenges disability can lead to, including the increased tension within a family which has already had to deal with one tragedy. Her father, Sean (Dermot Mulroney) is determined to do anything and everything to take care of her, but he's better at grand gestures than at really taking the time to listen to his kids.
With these rich characters and this level of awareness, the stage is set for what ought to be a great film, but sadly Insidious: Chapter 3 amounts to less than the sum of its parts and doesn't really connect with the audience that has been eagerly anticipating it. There's only one moment - fairly early on - that will make you gasp the way parts of the first film did, and although there are a few creepy scenes, the tension never lasts as long as it should. Although Whannell has spoken proudly of the nastiness of the demon his special effects team created, we simply see too much of it early on for it to seem as threatening as the franchise's iconic monster. Its initial confrontation with Elise leaves us doubting its power and although its subsequent interactions with the physical world wreak havoc, it lacks charisma. A potentially creepy backstory is under-exploited and the darkness recedes too quickly at the end.
Individually these are small things but collectively they become a problem, especially with a name like this to live up to. Make no mistake: this is better than the average horror film. It's well shot, benefits from some excellent set decoration, and contains some effective drama. There's just nothing insidious about it. Everything we see is on the surface and the more potent horror - Elise's inescapable fate and impending mortality more generally - barely gets room to breathe.Reviewed on: 11 Oct 2015