Insidious: Chapter 3 – Reviewed by David Turpin
Directed by Leigh Whannell
Starring: Stefanie Scott, Dermot Molroney, Lin Shaye, Phyllis Applegate
It’s another day at the office for the forces of evil, in the latest instalment of the largely rote Insidious franchise. In the absence of stars Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson, this threequel leans heavily on the presence of series veteran Lin Shaye, reprising her role as medium Elise Rainier.
While Shaye has certainly earned centre stage after over three decades of supporting turns in horror fare, she’s ill-served by this lukewarm venture.
The biggest surprise of Insidious: Chapter 3 is that is begins rather well. Nominal heroine Quinn (Stefanie Scott) is bland to a fault, but the early scenes – in which she is stalked by a shadowy figure whose face is hidden behind a breathing apparatus – generate a few modest shudders. By rights, proceedings should kick into gear when Shaye takes the spotlight, but unfortunately, it’s at this point that the film unravels, not least from the effort of forging tenuous connections between its standalone narrative and those of the previous instalments. Neither Insidious (2010) nor Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013) was a memorable film, so the reappearance of supporting characters from both is likely to elicit little more than a shrug from viewers passing time before the next jump scare.
More seriously, writer/director Leigh Whannell still hasn’t found a way to escalate proceedings without sapping tension – a problem that blighted both previous entries. The result here is a second half that piles changelings, parallel dimensions and a remarkably cursory demonic possession on top of each other in a vain effort to generate heebie-jeebies. Set-pieces tick by passably, but little sense of momentum is built – perhaps because so many scenes seem to be designed as stand-alone trailer highlights. The shark is finally jumped in a climactic sequence of hand-to-hand combat between human and spectre that feels absurdly misjudged.
Shaye does her best, but the rest of the cast is forgettable. Scott’s cardboard heroine left this reviewer pining for Jamie Lee Curtis and Heather Langenkamp. Dermot Mulroney is dreadful as her perplexed father, although he’s done no favours by the script.
The special effects make-up is a sight better this time out, after the largely risible creations of the previous instalments. Still, the series’ continued dedication to generating horror from the physicality of the elderly probably says something uncomfortable about its intended teenage audience.