Friday, June 5, 2015

Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)

Director: Leigh Whannell
Notable Cast: Lin Shaye, Stefanie Scott, Dermot Mulroney, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell, Tate Berney, Steve Coulter

Insidious was the kind of film that benefited from the glorifying touch of director James Wan. The script and cast were strong, but it was his knack for suspense, tension, and vision that carried that film into a franchise. Insidious: Chapter 2 wasn’t as lucky: with a much weaker script and some forced twists to the already hard to swallow plot progressions of the first, it was certainly the directorial efforts of Wan that made it watchable. Thusly, my hesitations for Insidious: Chapter 3 were high. It had no James Wan to carry the film and it was a first time directorial effort by screen writer Leigh Whannell, whose own scripting made the second film a tough watch at times. Fortunately, Mr. Whannell must have picked up a lot of tips from Wan in their time together because rarely does he make any mistakes in the direction of the film - even if the script is still the biggest weak point. All in all though, Chapter 3 is a step up from Chapter 2…but we’ll get to that in a second.

Quinn (Scott) just misses her mom. After tragically passing away, she tries to make contact with her mother repeatedly. Unfortunately, her attempts to contact the other side have attracted a different kind of attention—the attention of an insidious thing who wants to keep her in the dark. Now it’s up to her family with the help of psychic Elise (Shaye) to unlatch this supernatural parasite.

She's blue...dabu deeba dabu dabu deeba.
In many ways, Chapter 3 was going to be a hard one to get right no matter what. It was obvious with the redundancy of Chapter 2 that the franchise needed a new story to tell, but the expansion on explanations of the ghost world called The Further only seemed to make things more ridiculous. It seems that writer/director Whannell understood this and moved very delicately forward with a prequel that is both ‘less and more’ for the franchise. Now, I say ‘less and more’, because that’s the fine line that Chapter 3 has to tread. It’s ‘more’ because it is a prequel and there are enough tidbits, characters, and small plot pieces that connect the film to the previous two (or latter two depending on how you want to look at it) including the expansion of Shaye’s character and adding in an origin story of sorts to her team mates. It’s also ‘less’ because they distance themselves from a lot of the stranger aspects of the franchise that reared their ugly heads in the second film – like time travel.

This is what I appreciate about Chapter 3 though. It simplifies things again. It adds in a new family for a fresh brood for haunting, but it retains many of the side characters from the previous entries to keep those connections. It doesn’t have astral projection. It doesn’t toy with time. It grinds itself down to the basic haunting formula: family is being haunted, oh no, but wait – there’s some experts to help! While this simplification is a nice change of pace, Leigh Whannell does occasionally struggle in the script to not use the tropes of the genre so plainly. The lost husband/lost mom plot is about as cliché as they get and, despite his best efforts to retain the look and feel of the series, Whannell is no Wan and the visual depth and balance of light that carried the other films is not there to help as much either. In many ways, I’m sure fans are going to be disappointed by this entry as it pulls back from a lot of the unique aspects of the franchise. Sure, the basic idea of The Further is there, the tension and subtle creep scares remain, and the new demon/insidious entity is pretty awesome, but it does go back to its basics.

I wish I had ghosts to massage me when I sleep.
For this reviewer, this franchise needed a return to form after the wonky layers of time travel, astral projection, and memory destroying capabilities of The Further made the last entry so murky. Insidious: Chapter 3 might be more formulaic with a few forced moments and predictable plot progressions, but it was also a fun and straightforward film that showed what Whannell had picked up from his time with James Wan. It was a frightful good time, even if it was rarely unique or original.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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