Notorious horror writer/actor Leigh Whannell (Saw, Insidious, Insidious: Chapter 2) steps behind the camera to make his directorial debut with Insidious: Chapter 3. Having again penned the script for what is the third installment of the supernatural-focused franchise, this prequel – starring Dermot Mulroney (August: Osage County), Stefanie Scott (A.N.T. Farm) and the returning Lin Shaye – focuses on events prior to the first two films and the haunting of the Lambert family.
Believing her deceased mum is trying to contact her from the other side, Quinn Brenner (Scott) looks to renowned psychic, Elise Rainier (Shaye), for help. Having previously declared herself retired from the talking-to-ghosts game, the widower agrees to attempt to reach out to the youngster’s mother, but finds more than she was bargaining for. A ghostly entity has attached itself to Quinn – and it’s there to do more than knock on walls and freak out her father, Sean (Mulroney). As the supernatural being sucks the life out of the aspiring actress, it falls to Elise – with the help of bumbling ghost hunters Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (Whannell) – to travel into ‘The Further’ and rid the girl of this dangerous spirit.
Wholly unremarkable and far from original with its reliance on cliché bump-in-the-night scare tactics (knocking on walls, hiding behind curtains, cracking ceilings) and its tiresome vulnerable-young-person-terrorised-by-demons central focus, this latest chapter is far from 2015’s horror-iffic best (here’s looking at you It Follows and Unfriended!).
Despite falling into the same lazy traps as most 21st century horror flicks do, Whannell has still managed to rinse out a watchable and surprisingly cheese-free, demonic spectacle. As we delve deeper into the darkness with Shaye’s Elise, it looks and feels more convincing than its disappointing predecessors, as we walk down an eerie looking, The Shining-esque apartment building corridor, with the ominous room 514 catching the eye. It is veteran Shaye’s enjoyable performance as the ass-kicking psychic – carrying with her the right mix of vulnerability and sheer doggedness – that, beyond all the standard horror-fare, is the film’s most engaging aspect.
The biggest shocker here is that, Chapter 3, following 2013’s laughably terrible sequel, appears to have lifted the Insidious franchise back up from the brinks of cinema hell and given it an unexpected new lease of life. If the not so subtle hint in the movie’s final moments is anything to go by, this won’t be the end of the Insidious story. More jump-inducing and aesthetically pleasing than most, Whannell’s debut outing behind the camera – although a hard stretch to call it good – can certainly hold its head higher than the usual bog-standard modern day fright-fest.