The Darkest Chapter Goes Back to the Beginning…
Back in 2011 one of the most unsettling and frightening horrors scared it’s way into the hearts of horror fans, both casual and hardcore. ‘Insidious‘ came out of nowhere with genius direction, an ice cold atmosphere and a fresh take on the haunting genre which resulted in a very successful film that scared even a hardened horror veteran such as myself. Fast forward 5 years and we are now being treated to ‘Insidious: Chapter 3’, a film that takes place prior to the events of the first two films in the series, but not directly linked. Leigh Whannell, scribe of all three films, takes over the direction duties from friend and colleague James Wan for this entry.
As we go back to the beginning, chapter 3 is actually somewhat of a dual story entwined together. The primary part has us following Quinn Brenner (played by Stefanie Scott), a young girl who recently lost her mother to cancer, living with her father and brother in a small apartment. Quinn is desperate to contact her deceased mother and after trying herself seeks the help of Elise Rainer (expertly played by Lin Shaye in all 3 films). Elise makes up the second part of the story as we are treated to a background to her character and she is wonderfully fleshed out. As Quinn comes to Elise for help for her skills as a medium we find Elise slightly broken, suffering from the loss of a loved one herself and being haunted by an murderously evil entity whenever she uses her abilities, she is reluctant to help.
Not long after her visit to Elise, Quinn begins to experience the usual traits of a haunting, unknown sounds, mysterious dreams, weird sights and things she is unable to explain. Similarly Elise also starts to experience events as she soon realises a malicious spirit is looking to claim Quinn for itself. Elise soon comes to terms with the fact she is the only one who can help the young girl and decides to face her fate.
Before the film even screens it has an unenviable mountain to climb, not only is it a prequel to two incredibly successful films, it is also the third entry in a series and throw in the fact it it belongs in the horror genre, well we all know the usual outcome of those. Happily as far as third parts and prequels go the latest entry in the Insidious franchise is a suitable addition that isn’t afflicted by the typical issues that surround similar films. To call it the weakest film in the trilogy would be pretty harsh, especially in a series where the bar has been set so high, but in it’s effectiveness as a scary film it falls ever so slightly short.
There are many things that make an effective scary horror film, and much like comedy you need to be inventive and ahead of the game if you want to create an effective genre film. As the first two Insidious films directed by James Wan & wrote by Leigh Whannell have demonstrated, these guys know their stuff when it comes to horror, as far as I’m concerned they are modern masters of the genre. They have a subtle style of tackling scares and magician misdirection when it comes to setting them up that makes what would be considered a basic jump scare into something very effective. Like a well versed con artist they steal your attention in one direction as they deliver the frightening blow from another. Incredibly aware of their surroundings they manipulate shadow and shape, put malevolent forces into a frame without giving you an audible cue to let you know something is there, leaving you to find and see it for yourself. It’s a brilliantly effective style of direction for a horror film, which keeps you alert to whatever could come next and something I’ve cried out for, for years.
Like all of the Insidious films they mix up their fear tactics well, combining your typical jump scare and loud unsettling score with patient mood building and silent scares. Just like a fight, if you keep using your best move over and over again you become stale, and are likely to loose. Throw in some variety and you stun your audience with the unexpected, leaving their senses blitzed, wide eyed and motionless in their seats. Chapter 3 does this just as well as the first two films, however the one thing that holds it back is it holds a steady pace throughout without really hitting a crescendo. The first film especially did this masterfully, but the third act for Chapter 3 just bubbled along and ended, it’s not necessarily wrong it just doesn’t make the ending as memorable.
Much like ‘Insidious: Chapter 2’ one of my favourite aspects of the film was the development of the story, especially in Lin Shaye’s character Elise Rainer. For a prequel it spends little time setting up the events of the first two films, which is a smart move as you don’t get bogged down in explaining what you already know is coming. The Further, where Elise ventures, and features prominently throughout the series, is an intriguing concept that I still find fresh three films in.
The first two films had a very unique blend of horror and humour, with ghost hunters Specs & Tucker providing some light hearted uncomfortable humour which helps relieve a little tension. Unfortunately when they try it here they use Elise, and though you understand what they are trying to do, it just doesn’t quite work with a character who has remained fiercely serious up till this point.
All things considered ‘Insidious: Chapter 3‘ is a good addition to the Insidious franchise, it falls a little short in re-enacting the heart pounding fear from previous films but still does enough to give you a jump here and there. That being said it feels they tried to make it a little differently to the others and keep proceedings from getting repetitive. I sincerely hope any future entry in the franchise still has James Wan or Leigh Whannell leading proceedings as it is their craftsmanship that makes the franchise so good and unique. A perfect film for the Friday night film fans, and a good watch for any horror fan out there, the high standards of the previous two films make it hard for this entry to make as big an impact, but it is still definitely worth your time. I thoroughly enjoyed it.