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New Release Review - INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3

Prequel to the first installment of the Insidious series.


Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Leigh Whannell

Starring: Lin Shaye, Dermot Mulroney, Stefanie Scott, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell



"The darkness of the movie's climactic scenes makes it considerably difficult to check your watch, which is just downright inconsiderate on the filmmakers' part."



Few movie franchises have proved as divisive as Insidious. Mainstream audiences lap it up while hardcore horror buffs view it as a ham-fisted hijacking of the genre they love by filmmakers unskilled in its essential elements of suspense, tension and atmosphere. British critic Nigel Floyd famously labelled these movies, along with their Conjuring/Annabelle brethren, 'Cattle Prod Cinema', a reference to the overuse of cheap jump scares, effective only in the way it's impossible to not be startled upon hearing a sudden loud noise. The man responsible for these genre travesties is director James Wan, who having fled horror, to the delight of genre fans, for the Fast & Furious franchise (one far more accommodating of his crash bang wallop style), has passed on the directorial reigns to the series' writer Leigh Whannell. That's the good news. The bad news is he's also handed over his cattle prod.
This third installment is a prequel, taking place "a few years" before the events of the first film. Having lost her mother to cancer, teenager Quinn (Stefanie Scott) pays a visit to retired psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye), hero of the other two series installments, hoping to make contact with her departed Mom. Elise is reluctant at first but Quinn plucks her heart strings and she relents. However, her attempt to contact the dead woman is hijacked by a malevolent spirit who seems intent on bringing harm to both Quinn and Elise. Days later, Quinn is hit by a car after finding herself distracted by a mysterious figure in an alleyway, and ends up with both legs in casts. Laid up at home with her Dad Sean (Dermot Mulroney) and kid brother Alex (Tate Berney), who oddly seems to disappear for a large chunk of the movie without explanation, Quinn finds herself terrorised by the same evil spirit.
This is a series that's had its share of unintentional laughable moments - the demon of the first movie turning out to resemble a kid face-painted as Darth Maul for Halloween; the ridiculous dubbing of Lin Shaye's voice over an actress playing a young version of her character - but here attempts are made to provide intentional chortles, but the gags feel out of place in a movie that plays out in a sombre key for the most part. When Lin Shaye's Elise trash talks a demon ("Come on you bitch!" she exclaims, fists pumped) it feels like the movie has switched reels with a Wayans Brothers parody. This chapter attempts to turn Elise into a Ripleyesque action hero, and there's a moment which sees her dispatch a spook using a technique we saw Vin Diesel deploy to take out Jason Statham in Furious 7. I guess James Wan had some input after all (he also cameos here as a stage director).
The strangest storytelling choice here is in placing Elise in danger so often. After all, she's the star of the other two movies, so we know from the start that she survives this prequel. There are other characters that could be considered disposable, but it's only Quinn and Elise who are ever placed in peril.
All three of these movies have had similar third acts, in which Elise ventures into a hellish other dimension known as 'the further', and in all three movies these set pieces have played out like a walk-through of a ghost train, with various ghouls and ghosts popping out of the shadows to spook the psychic, always of course accompanied by an ear-splitting sound effect that sounds like a crash test dummy being launched through the windscreen of a FIAT. The darkness of these climactic scenes makes it considerably difficult to check your watch, which is just downright inconsiderate on the filmmakers' part.



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