A prequel set before the haunting of the Lambert family, Chapter 3 is the darkest chapter in the franchise and reveals how gifted psychic Elise Rainier reluctantly agrees to use her ability to contact the dead in order to help a teenage girl who has been targeted by a dangerous supernatural entity.
After dominating the horror box office with Saw, Director James Wan and his writing partner Leigh Whannell continued trend as taste-makers in the genre after introducing the world to The Conjuring and the Insidious franchise. Stepping down from gore-soaked torture the duo used their talents for misdirection, creative sound design and an equal balance of pace versus tension to deliver plenty of near-perfect scares that left audiences expecting the unexpected.
Fast forward five years and we now have the third installment in the popular franchise. However, this time around the film is not directed by James Wan himself. This news would no doubt concern many fans of the franchise but I urge you to fear not. James Wan may have left the franchise to direct Fast and Furious 7 but he still remained invested during production of the project providing support to the writer of Insidious Leigh Whannell who makes Chapter 3 his directorial debut.
Set before the Lambert Haunting, Insidious Chapter 3 tells two stories. As the film begins we are introduced to teenager Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott) who is currently dealing with the loss of her mother to Cancer. After believing that she is receiving visitations from her mother’s ghost she reaches out to Elise Rainer (Lin Shaye) and this sets up the second narrative strand. At first sight Elise is not the woman we have come to love in the first two chapters. Instead she is a social recluse with a definite fear for the paranormal. It is through the course of the film that we see her character change but of course Whannell does so in the only way Insidious can… by terrifying his audience.
It is clear from the outset that Whannell has injected some of his own style for the third act but thankfully his eye for aesthetics rests comfortably in the world he and Wan has created. Nothing feels out of place as the overall mood and setting of the film fits perfectly with the previous two chapters which rounds the franchise off nicely. As a director Whannell certainly knows what he is doing. The pacing of the film is nicely structured, the cinematography is wonderful and Whannell’s talent for misdirection will have you jumping out of your seats with some pretty effective scares.
The talent in front of the camera are fantastic too. Lin Shaye naturally shines on screen and is one of horror’s most endearing characters. As Elise, Shaye is energetic, extremely likable and a joy to watch which is unsurprising as her performances are always great. She has a talent for cementing emotion and vulnerability which is just incredible. Joining her is Stefanie Scott who plays the teen harassed by an evil presence in her home. There is a couple of moments of forced exposition but I was left thoroughly satisfied with her performance which felt completely real and very relatable.
As for the rest of the cast, Dermot Mulroney plays father to Scott’s character. His performance perfectly compliments Scott’s and their performance together has such chemistry on screen perfectly anchoring their shared sense of grief and loss. Rounding up the rest of the principal cast are Angus Sampson and Whannell himself as Tucker and Specs the comedic relief. Both performances are hilarious in their own right and never once cross over into campy and provide a much needed sense of release during the more tense moments in the film.
This said Chapter 3 suffers from the same faults as the first two chapters did. The film starts to loose steam as it enters the second act which really slows down the pacing of the film then it injects a loud screaming jump scares to wake the audience. These moments although jarring do at times feel tedious to watch. Thankfully, the film picks up again in time for the finale which is packed with more than a few moments that will have horror fans smiling with delight and the rest watching the film through the gaps in their fingers.
Be sure to check out INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3 when it is released in cinemas across the UK on Friday 5th June.
Words: Jon Dickinson (@marvelguy)