Insidious: Chapter 3

Ignore the story: stay for the scares

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Insidious: Chapter 3

Rating Insidious: Chapter 3Insidious: Chapter 3Insidious: Chapter 3Insidious: Chapter 3Insidious: Chapter 3

Written and directed by Leigh Whannel. Starring Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Dermot Mulroney, Stefanie Scott, Steve Coulter, Hayley Kiyoko, Corbett Tuck, Tom Fitzpatrick, Ele Keats, Ruben Garfias, James Wan.

The first half of Insidious: Chapter 3 is filled with little more than scenes where our young heroine hears or sees something strange, and then slowly examines her surroundings.

The soundtrack is almost dead silent, and the camera slowly, carefully traces her movements until… Boo! Something scary jumps out and scares her (and us.)

And you know what? These scenes work. Insidious 3, for a good long while, is flat-out scary: writer and debut director Leigh Whannell has a great feel for atmosphere and spatial continuity, and delivers these moments with maximum impact.

Of course, when the film decides to start telling a coherent story in its second half, the scares completely dissipate: as has become standard with these things, once the film explains exactly what’s going on, it loses its ability to scare us. Fear is in the unknown.

Whannell wrote the first two Insidious movies for director James Wan, and appeared in those films as the supporting character Specs, a ghost hunter who teams with Tucker (Angus Sampson) to document the paranormal.

Specs and Tucker are likable characters, but their use as comic relief seems out of place in these otherwise deadly-serous horror films. Chapter 3 gives them a little more to work with, and it’s not a coincidence that the film loses its effectiveness the longer they’re onscreen.

Lin Shaye’s Elise Rainer, the standard-order psychic required for these kinds of films, also gets more screen time this time around; this Insidious is not a sequel to the earlier films but rather a prequel, documenting the first case that brought Elise together with Specs & Tucker.

And the weird going-ons surrounding that case is where Chapter 3 shines: Stefanie Scott stars as Quinn Brenner, a high school senior and hopeful actress who attempts to contact her recently-deceased mother from beyond the grave.

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Bad idea: instead of her mother, Quinn actually contacts an apparition credited as The Man Who Can’t Breathe (Michael Reid MacKay) – an unsettling tar-covered ghost with a breathing mask who enters the physical realm to assault and terrify Elise.

Dad Sean (Dermot Mulroney) is at a loss, and despite physical evidence the ghost leaves behind, he doesn’t contact authorities (they never do, do they?) Instead, he turns to the paranormal investigators and the psychic, who helpfully explain why Quinn is being haunted, and what they can do to fix it.

Confined to a bed and/or wheelchair with two broken legs, Quinn makes for a great horror movie protagonist. The first half of the film offers precious little plot, and by now these haunting scenes are passé, but the scare factor is high and the film is surprisingly effective (just avoid the trailer, which spoils a lot of the boo! moments).

There’s a real dearth of genuinely scary movies at the multiplex; recent horror films like The Babadook and It Follows are praised more for their artistic pretension than the actual horror they contain, while mainstream fare has drowned under the post-Blair Witch wave of found footage features that are no longer able to get under our skin.

Insidious: Chapter 3 is not a great movie, but it’s a scary one. For horror fans, that’s enough for a solid recommendation.

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