This Chapter Takes Us Back To the Beginning…

Director: LEIGH WHANNELL/2015

Leigh Whannell, the writer and creator of the characters of the Insidious franchise takes over the director’s chair for James Wan who left to take on Furious Seven, but who remains a producer in this third installment.  Insidious: Chapter 3 is a sort of beginning for the franchise, taking the story to several years prior to the Lambert haunting that drove the first two chapters.

For this chapter, Stefani Scott (No Strings Attached, Wreck It Ralph), is a teenager, Quinn Brenner, who longs to move out of her house and go to school as far away as possible.  She and her dad, Sean (Dermot Mulroney-The Grey, My Best Friend’s Wedding) are butting heads as neither are handling the death of her mom very well.  Her younger brother Alex (Tate Berney) seems to be handling things a little better.

Quinn really needs her mom and seeks out a psychic to help her contact her mom. The door she knocks on is Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye), the medium from the first 2 chapters.  Elise warns Quinn, after learning that Quinn tried to contact her mom on her own, that there is a great danger in contacting the dead as you might not attract the spirit of the one you want, but other spirits, many of whom are extremely malicious.  Elise, has not been practicing her “gift” for a while now due to a tragedy in her life, but reluctantly decides to help Quinn.  The rest of the story is their battle against the wrong type of spirit who has answered Quinn’s call.

If you are a fan of the original 2 chapters of the Insidious franchise, then this one will be well received.  Having already established the world that these stories exist in, there is less need to go back over the nuances of the spiritual world where these dark spirits inhabit, that is called ‘The Further”.  But in many ways, this is an origin story as we learn how Elise becomes the medium who is a part of the elite group of ghost hunters called “Spectral Sightings”.  As such, for those who have not seen the first 2 chapters, this is just as good an entry point into the world of Insidous as the first two chapters stand alone from this one.  This one is Elise’s backstory, and again, it is her partners in Spectral Sightings that provide much of the comedy relief that fits nicely with the intensity of this horror film.

As I mentioned in my review of the Poltergeist remake, horror films have become quite stagnant lately as there have been a glut of them on the market.  The audience of this genre is well-seasoned in sniffing out when the jumps, scares, and bumps in the night are going to happen, and how.  Insidious: Chapter 3 knows its audience well, and provides enough fresh and effective techniques to keep the audience engaged.

The first big scare is a big one and simultaneously caught the audience of the screening I attended off-guard, and provided us all with a cathartic bit of laughter as we laughed at how loud we all gasped simultaneously. It also shrinks the scope of the previous films down a bit by putting Quinn in a situation where she is largely confined to her bed or a wheelchair, adding to the tension.

Insidous: Chapter 3 isn’t reinventing the wheel of the horror genre, but they are providing some really good grease to get it moving again.  It’s a pretty good job too, especially considering the lower budget that Blumhouse (the production company) makes them work with, and the PG-13 rating that limits the amount of gore and such that they can show.  In many ways, this franchise, beginning with James Wan’s direction in the first two chapters, has been very creative in maximizing scares through what you CAN see as well as the fear that comes from what you CAN’T see on the screen.

As I said, if you’re a fan of the franchise then this will be a good experience for you, and miles above the bore-fest that was the Poltergeist remake.  If you don’t like these films, then the opposite is true….this one won’t win you over. But Leigh Whannell, in his directorial debut, keeps things tight and by the numbers and is very good and creating some good moments of fear and claustrophobia in the Brenner’s apartment.  Having Wan on as a producer had to be an invaluable resource to him.

While the dark spirits of this franchise are indeed insidious, seeking to trap and trick their prey, this film is anything but.  It is a straight forward and fun scare romp that will at least give you your money’s worth, and as school is officially out and summer kicks off, its a great start if you are a horror fan (just pretend that Poltergeist never happened).  Time will tell if Chapter 4 continues this origin story, or ties us back in with the Lamberts, but either way, we haven’t seen the last of the Insidious franchise.