Monday, December 5, 2016

The Insidiousest

The general consensus at the announcement of 2015’s Insidious: Chapter 3 was an apathetic “oh, they made another Insidious movie.” As we’ve learned from American politics, much of humanity is horrible and awful and is often completely wrong.

Quick Plot: A few years before the actions of the first Insidious, other ghostly happenings occur. Quinn Brenner is a nice young high school senior hoping to make it into college on an acting scholarship. This will take her far away from her well-meaning but typically overbearing dad (Dermot Mulroney) who has put her in charge of the home and her younger brother following the death of his wife.

The only thing Quinn wants more than a killer monologue is to reconnect with her mother, who she believes to be present in her life in ghost form. Quinn reaches out to familiar face Elise Rainier (the one and only Lin Shaye), but the Insidious veteran has been having some problems of her own when it comes to entering The Further.

Elise, you see, recently lost her beloved husband. In trying to reach him, she has instead bumped into that familiar black-veiled senior citizen that once (and in the future) tortured two generations of the Lambert boys. As a result, Elise is a tad gun-shy when it comes to connecting with that other plain of existence.

Quinn, however, doesn’t really have a choice, as she’s somehow awakened an angry, homicidal spirit who’s trying to take her down into his hellish version of limbo. 

Insidious: Chapter 3 is written and directed by new wave horror veteran Leigh Whannell, who’s served as a screenwriter for most of James Wan’s projects. Whannell (who also shows up onscreen as the divisive pre-tie wearing ghostbuster Specs) clearly learned a whole lot from shadowing Wan over the last few years. Chapter 3 fits right into the series, and even offers some improvements.

While I enjoyed Insidious, the first sequel left me fairly disappointed, with the convoluted story getting in the way of the actual horror. Chapter 3 wisely simplifies things. Quinn’s haunting is straightforward and as a result, the film’s jump scares and visual chills hit quite well. We don’t have to know every detail about Quinn’s stalker. He’s just creepy.

The key ingredient in making this film work, however, is something far more special. Lin Shaye is the definition of a veteran character actor. She’s been in the business for decades but rarely seemed to get the spotlight. How nice is it that Leigh Whannell seemed to decide her time had finally come?

Shaye is wonderful in Insidious: Chapter 3, and more importantly, the movie pops because it has her at its center. Quinn’s story is fine on its own and young actress Stefanie Scott connects well, but around the halfway mark, Elise gets to take over and kick ass. It helps that the film develops her story, introducing the tragedy of her husband’s suicide (plus an adorably loyal golden retriever sidekick) to add weight to her psychic visits to The Further. 
This isn’t a game changer for horror, but it’s a solid, enjoyable, and whaddya know, actually scary entry into a successful franchise. This makes me eager to see more Whannell behind the camera, and equally eager to see the upcoming fourth film directed by The Taking of Deborah Logan’s Adam Robitel. 

High Points
34 years of watching horror movies has made me fairly immune to typical jump scares, but dangit, I gasped at least twice at simple scares that just worked exactly as they were designed to. Well done Mr. Whannell

As I said about the first Insidious’s devotion to having its characters NOT make the token cliched mistakes found in every haunted house flick of years past (not moving, not turning on the lights) it’s also refreshing to see Chapter 3 make a clear point of NOT having Quinn’s dad waste screentime doubting his daughter’s hauntings. 

Low Points
Much in the way the first Insidious included a baby sibling purely for the convenience of using a creepy baby monitor, this one seems to include a younger brother just for, well, help with the internet?

Lessons Learned
If you’re food shopping for a teenage girl in any movie made after 1995, always assume she’s a vegetarian to avoid the well-meaning offering of jerky only to have her tell you what I just did

Save the word "literally" for when you're literally being literal (thanks, millennial best friend character who cements her status as the secret mini-MVP of this movie)

You might think you’re tough, but trust me: you’re not as tough as Lin Shaye

Look! It’s--
James Wan cameoing as the director overseeing Quinn’s audition. That’s cute.


I’m genuinely shocked by how much I enjoyed Insidious: Chapter 3. It’s scary, it’s funny, it’s familiar in some ways and incredibly fresh in others. I found the film via HBO Go, but if it turns up near you, give it a go. You don’t necessarily have to watch the first two (and certainly not the second) to enjoy this one. Just enjoy it as a strong little ghost story. I think you’ll be pleased. 


  1. Yeah, this was a good one. The Insidious movies aren't particularly scary, but they're fun... in a way that The Conjuring movies distinctly are not, for me (I kind of despise them but they feel like cousins of the Insidious films).

    1. I liked the first Conjuring, but much like the first Insidious, I thought it petered out with its ending. Still haven't seen the sequel.

  2. The only reason I gave in and watched the second Conjuring movie is because it's based on the same 'real' haunting as Ghostwatch, which is an old favorite.