Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #603
Number of Views: One
Release Date: June 5, 2015
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 97 minutes
Director: Leigh Whannell
Producers: Jason Blum, Oren Peli, James Wan
Screenplay: Leigh Whannell
Special Effects: John C. Hartigan
Visual Effects: James David Hattin, Matthew T. Lynn
Cinematography: Brian Pearson
Score: Joseph Bishara
Editing: Timothy Alverson
Studios: Blumhouse Productions, Entertainment One, Stage 6 Films
Distributor: Gramercy Pictures
Stars: Stefanie Scott, Dermot Mulroney, Lin Shaye, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell, Hayley Kiyoko, Tate Berney, Michael Reid MacKay, Tom Gallop, Steve Coulter, Phyllis Applegate, Ashton Moio, Ele Keats, Tom Fitzpatrick, Adrian Sparks, Phil Abrams, Ruben Garfias
Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫
 Joseph Bishara “Tiptoe Through The Tulips”
 Joseph Bishara “Main Theme”
When do you decide that enough is enough? There has to come a time when the realization sets in that you’re flogging a dead horse right? I mean, how long can you be expected to go through the motions before something well-worn starts to lose its appeal? The answer, where the big-budget Blumhouse blockbuster series Insidious is concerned is no time soon and, love it or hate it, it’s hard to argue against a franchise that has generated over $350 million in box-office receipts since its commencement in 2010. Only The Conjuring can boast a more impressive theatrical coup and that happens to have come from the very same stable. Indeed, as I write this now, a fourth installment is already in development so, if the horse is getting flogged here, then at least it’s still in good health, correctamundo? Financially that is as resounding a yes as they come, although I’ve personally long since pandered for change where this particular string of movies is concerned.
Let’s not tangle those ghostly manacles, the first two Insidious films are plenty commendable, and the formula itself, never anything less than dependable. That said, of all the modern ghost stories to have surfaced since James Wan’s original frightened audiences into submission in 2010, neither one would actually make my top five. Both Scott Derrickson’s Sinister and Mike Flanagan’s Oculus displayed far greater meanness of spirit and didn’t have to result to pummeling our senses with the usual formulaic jolt shocks to obtain their response. If it sounds like I’m being unnecessarily harsh here, then let me assure you that it’s of the cruel to be kind variety. You see, accomplished screenwriter cum first-time director Leigh Whannell has had a hand in virtually every movie that Wan has produced over the past decade and it seems only right that he cut his directorial teeth with a series that he knows like the back of his hand. The omens were good and I was positively willing him on to get this right.
Before I go any further, I wish to set any racing minds at rest by assuring you that, regardless of any criticism leveled at Insidious: Chapter 3 from hereon in, the boy did good. Familiarity may breed contempt but not when audiences are bleeding from the eyes for more of the same and that is precisely what Whannell provides them. Personal gripes aside, lest we not forget that this series has been massively profitable and few will be expecting him to reinvent the wheel when it evidently wasn’t broken to begin with. Instead of continuing to push the story forward, it opts to dial us back for a prologue, affording more time with series regulars Elise, Carl, Specs and Tucker. This is a shrewd decision on Whannell’s part as it was unclear which direction it could take after the last installment and we are provided greater depth to well-loved characters whose omnipresence have helped the franchise no end in attaining such a vast fanbase.
Right from the offset, Whannell is clear as to the most potent weapon in his armory and wisely elects to focus far more on the wonderful Lin Shaye this time around. This marvellous actress is never anything less than utterly captivating to watch and the third entry affords her a great deal more screen time, something which she devours most willingly. Retired parapsychologist Elise is currently undergoing something of a crisis of confidence since her beloved husband Jack chose to take his own life. This has her questioning whether or not she is cut out for the whole paranormal gig as an evil spirit has attached itself to her and swears blind that it’s going to snuff her out one way or another. It appears as though all that time poking around in the spirit realm has taken its toll and she is starting to resemble a scared old lady as opposed to the force of nature we know and cherish.
She is visited by troubled teenager Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott) who is struggling to come to terms with the untimely death of her mother Lillith a year previous and desperate to make contact with her. She implores Quinn not to attempt this connection and kindly sends the young girl packing but, days later, Quinn is hit by a car and left bed-bound for the foreseeable. Now confined to her apartment with her quietly grieving father Sean (Dermot Mulroney) and younger sibling, Alex (Tate Berney), she begins to sense that something isn’t right and it’s time for some good old-fashioned bumps in the night to play out.
Whannell builds tension well during the opening act as we are gradually introduced to the demonic entity hell-bent on gaining control of its compromised quarry. The ever dependable Mulroney is critical here as he endears the character of Sean to us massively and it is clear that he is having just as much trouble getting to grips with life without his wife, but also that he will go to any lengths to protect his daughter.
It isn’t long before he realizes that he simply doesn’t possess the tool set to do so and, as the visitations continue to grow increasingly frequent and spiteful, reluctantly returns to Elise in a bid to coax her out of her self-enforced retirement. She initially declines and this forces him to call upon demonologists Specs (Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) as he is fast running out of ideas and Quinn’s behavior is growing ever more erratic.
However, after pouring her aching heart out to fellow parapsychologist and dear friend, Carl (Steve Coulter), Elise has a change of mind and all pawns are in place for the usual final act trip into The Further. Time is of the über-essence at this point as, since her accident, Quinn’s soul has become that much more susceptible to being snatched away and the malevolent spirit in question has already commenced possession.
Insidious: Chapter 3 certainly has no shortage of incident to keep things ticking over and, as we have come to expect by now, isn’t afraid to assault us visually at every turn, with Joseph Bishara’s haunting score and all manner of audio spikes and jangles heightening the sense of burgeoning dread throughout. Regrettably, bona fide chills are at a distinct premium here and I only recall the hairs on my neck standing to attention once or twice as I’m pretty much aware of its cunning tricks by this point and the third outing does little to push the envelope.
That said, Whannell’s entry is still a most welcome addition to the series for a number of key reasons. There is a fair share of thematic depth to proceedings and Scott gives a highly creditable account of herself as our tormented teen, making the character of Quinn relatable and doing her darnedest to keep us fighting her corner. Meanwhile, Mulroney proves once again that he’s lost none of the edge that has made him known to and respected by audiences worldwide and, without his assured turn as fretful father figure, it could have been an entirely different story.
However, what makes Insidious: Chapter 3 a notable inclusion to the series is ultimately and rather predictably Shaye. This prequel not only provides this unsung veteran of horror far more screen time, but also her very own reasoning for taking that ominous trip back to the spiritual realm and fighting these pesky demons as she bids to outwit the woman in black bedeviling her every tentative step. Does it reinvent the wheel? No and categorically so but then who was realistically expecting such anyhoots? Where Whannell comes good is that he knows full well of the strengths at his disposal and makes the most of them. The franchise may no longer encourage any sleepless nights, but he proves that it can still have us checking those dark recesses come bedtime and that is a job well enough done in my book.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Dread Factor: 3/5
For the Dread-Heads: Much as a spoof movie tends to either hit or miss with its gags, Insidious: Chapter 3 throws all manner of shocks and jolts at its audience and hopes that some of it sticks. Curiously my skin felt at its slackest before the demon itself was revealed in its entirety and one early example of less being infinitely more served as a devilish reminder that the series still has the ability to affect its audience. One more thing before I scuttle back to The Further – pretty please can nobody mention the painfully yawn-inducing closing shot as I’ve had about as much of Darth Maul’s petulant nephew as I can take at this point.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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