By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Since James Wan, the director of Chapters 1 & 2, went on to direct Furious 7, this gave writing collaborator Leigh Whannell the chance to prove himself as a director and take the reigns of this fun franchise. For a directorial debut, Whannell may not do an exceptional job, but at least he has kept the Insidious saga on the right track. This latest installment may be titled Chapter 3; however, it actually takes place shortly before the events of the first film. This movie tells an origin story of sorts. Audiences get to witness the events that inspire paranormal investigators Elise Rainier (Lyn Shaye), Specs (Whannell), and Tucker ( Angus Sampson) to form their spirited trio.
Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott) begins to witness paranormal activity she believes may be her deceased mother attempting to contact her from beyond. Not knowing how to communicate with spirits, Quinn contacts Elise Rainier for help. Rainier, who refuses to use her gift because of a frightening past experience, warns Quinn that any attempts to contact spirits may open her life to other threats from “The Further”. As Quinn experiences more frightening and disturbing contact from the other realm, she realizes that the spirit contacting her is not mother and has malicious intent.
Director Whannell, who once again wrote the story and screenplay, has made a solid prequel that delivers some intense frights, effective jump scares, and taut suspense. Whannell does offer some fine work as a director, but the fact that this is his first film at the helm is a tad obvious in some parts. With the focus of the story split between Quinn and Elise’s arcs, the movie makes for an intriguing installment. Of the two arcs, Quinn’s part is the weaker. I found Elise’s origin plot the more fascinating and exciting. Still, Quinn’s portion is not a complete bore. Whannell’s strong development of her character, as well as her father (Dermot Mulroney) does make for an engaging moments despite the fact that they tread familiar ground when it comes to a haunting/possession story. I suppose that is to be expected from a movie franchise inspired by familiar horror movie beats.
The solid development comes to fruition thanks to the great cast of the film. I was rather impressed with Stefanie Scott who performs well in a lead role. Dermot Mulroney delivers a strong turn as Sean Brenner, the frustrated single dad barely keeping it together to raise his daughter and son without his beloved wife. The exceptional Lyn Shaye has always been my favorite actress of the series, and it makes me tremendously happy to see her once again in this installment. I am also glad that Whannell took the time to give audiences the story and origin of Elise’s story and how she started Spectral Sightings. I also really enjoy the humor that Specs and Tucker bring to the movies and this movie is no exception.
As with the last movie, I’d recommend catching it as a matinee, mainly because full priced tickets are too expensive for a film that benefits from, but doesn’t beg for a dark theatrical experience. The film makes for a fun and thrilling time at the cinema, but doesn’t bring anything bold or new to the horror genre. As for Whannell taking the reigns, Wan is missed, but this franchise doesn’t suffer from his absence. Perhaps with this experience behind him, Leigh Whannell can either make an even better installment of Insidious or move on to something greater. Either way, I wish him well because I feel that he is a genuine talent.