Insidious: Chapter 3

Rebecca Wynne-Walsh

The tone is set for Insidious: Chapter 3 right from the opening credits, eerie music plays as the camera moves through a haunted house before the title appears in blood red letters.  The film begins as teenager Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott) reaches out to Elise (Lin Shaye, a familiar face from the past two films), a medium, in hopes of contacting her recently deceased mother.

Superficially the plot appears to stand apart from the past two films, in taking the focus away from the Lambert family hauntings.  However, while it’s different from the other Insidious films, it doesn’t set itself apart from other horror films that centre around possession. This prequel falls short of establishing itself as a complete piece. The many references and nods to the events of the first two films force this third chapter to become a film for Insidious fans rather than horror fans. That said the filmmakers here are clearly experts within the genre. James Wan (The Conjuring) and Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity) are listed among the producers, while prolific horror writer and producer Leigh Whannell (who also plays Specs in the film) makes his directorial debut. The scares vary from obvious to more subtle, a demonic figure in the corner of the room to the sound of breathing in a dark room.

The characters are well written for the most part. Newcomers to the series Stefanie Scott and Dermot Mulroney as her struggling, widowed father work well together. Scott gives a likeable and relatable performance working well with her on screen Father.

The emotional stakes and the believable relationships in Insidious: Chapter 3 are what give the film its weight. While the living characters are well written and performed, it is the dead characters, the spirits and demons that drive the plot. The motivations and background of what is essentially the “villain” of the film are extremely underdeveloped. As such the film relies more on jump scares and sudden shocks rather than the psychological horror and suspense, which featured more heavily in the previous instalments of the series.

Comedic relief comes in the form of Angus Sampson and Leigh Whannell reprising their roles as Tucker and Specs. The pair provide further nods to the other Insidious films bringing viewers familiar with the series out of the story and possibly alienating newcomers. At times, it seems the actual plot is secondary to bridging the gap between this instalment and the first two films. The horror element, which should be central, can sometimes feel as if it were an afterthought. Characters are included that do not service the plot but simply look creepy. Such devices create empty scares, a momentary jolt that you forget soon after.  

The story feels unoriginal and forced at times and cannot be saved by the strong performances. The scares and key scenes of interaction with the malevolent spirit largely appear unmotivated. After the bone-chilling originality the series began with this prequel feels a little irrelevant and forgettable. Insidious: Chapter 3 falls into a distinct middle ground. For anyone looking for a decent and unsophisticated horror film Insidious: Chapter 3 will probably fit the bill. For anyone looking for an original, spine-tingling horror, it will not.