Director: Leigh Whannell
Cast: Stefanie Scott, Lin Shaye, Dermot Mulroney, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell
Plot: Quinn Brenner (Scott) desperately wants to contact her dead mother, but in attempting to contact the dead, she attracts the attention of the Man Who Can’t Breathe, who decides to make her his pet.
Insidious Chapter Three is essentially a test. James Wan, one of the heroes of the horror genre, created this divisive horror franchise, making a powerhouse first movie and following it up with a slightly inferior, yet intelligent sequel. However, while the remnants of a sequel-spanning franchise were built, Wan jumped ship to the action genre, leaving screenwriter and supporting cast member Leigh Whannell to take over as director (Wan has a pretty neat cameo however). The test is, in simple terms, can Insidious survive without Wan, as well as the main cast of the other movies, and does it have the legs to carry on making more movies?
The set-up is a good, if a tad routine, one. We are introduced to sweet girl, Quinn Brenner. She is a bright young teenage girl, played charmingly by Stefanie Scott, and as her life begins to get stressful, she feels the need to contact her dead mother for guidance. However, as the other two movies told us, connecting with a dead loved one can be heard by all of the dead, and this is the perfect chance for a brand new villain to rear his ugly head. The best thing about Insidious’ third chapter is its choice of villain. It would have been easy to pull an old faithful out of the rogue gallery; Wan created enough intriguing baddies to make a sequel worth creating. However, Whannell takes a gamble and writes up his own chilling monster. The Man Who Can’t Breathe is an astonishingly creepy figure, first introduced as a frail figure waving innocently in the distance to a menacing apparition, mainly seen peeking through the curtains or through his oily footprints, creeping along an abandoned corridor. Whannell, for the first half of the movie, refuses to linger on his creation, so we don’t get a clear idea of what this monster looks like. It keeps the scares fresh for the slow build-up, as each appearance guarantees sharp breathing and prickly goosebumps. Accompanied by a few hollow dead people, he offers up a fresh narrative and the joy is in trying to figure out what exactly makes him tick. We learn just enough to satisfy, but not as much as Insidious Chapter Two divulged, so hopefully a rewatch won’t negate any future scares.
Sadly, after the Man Who Can’t Breathe has been discussed, I begin to run out of good things to say. Oh, don’t get me wrong, Chapter Three isn’t a bad movie by any means. It is the very definition of good enough. Quinn spends most of the movie crippled and unable to run away from the ghosts haunting her, which makes for a good set-up, and the performances, especially from Lin Shaye, are all commendable. It just isn’t really enough. As someone who was petrified throughout the last two movies, I found the third one to be surprisingly tame. There were a few good jumps (don’t look out the window!), and the atmosphere was brilliantly spooky at times, but nothing made a lasting impression. The end of the movie involves Lin Shaye confronting her demons (literally, I guess), so it becomes more action-based. Sure, the Man Who Can’t Breathe can jump out suddenly at us as much as he likes, but when Lin Shaye delivers an uppercut two seconds later, the scare feels pretty worthless. Lin Shaye, the writers… and OK, to an extent, us… love the badassery of Elise Rainier, but it does get in the way of the third movie being anything too memorable in the horror department. Even worse are sequences that try to trick us into thinking Elise is about to be killed off early on, which are made redundant seeing as this is a prequel and we know she survives to make it into the later movies. On top of that, the story is pretty predictable. You know how it is going to pan out, can see the scares coming a few seconds before they do and before long, you begin to miss the first Insidious.
So does it pass the test? Well, I am not bored of the franchise yet, so I guess my desire to see a fourth movie means that it does. As I said, Insidious’ third chapter is the very definition of good enough. I would happily see a brand new ghost crop up and have the same old storyline revolve around a new baddie, hopefully with a better set of jump scares. Just don’t get your hopes up and expect this one to be in the same league as the rest of the franchise.
Final Verdict: Disappointing, but not enough to lose the fans. Light on the horror, but appealing enough to forgive.