Labeled as the third chapter in the franchise, although it’s a prequel to the first making it Chapter 0 or the prologue chronologically, Insidious 3 is the second best in the series. The first movie did something horror movies don’t often do, it delivered something that felt fresh and original. Equally as astonishing it had some pretty solid acting. Insidious 3 has lost the originality and didn’t work too hard to cast convincing actors. There are still some thrills to be had. The tension holds fairly strong throughout. The ‘villain’ is cool and the further (ominous name given to the spirit world) is much better represented than the smokey sound stage from the end of the original.
Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott) is a typical movie teenage girl. She has high school drama, the spunky best friend, the neighbor boy who won’t quite admit they like each other, and a strong desire to get out of her current life. After the off screen death of her mother, Brenner seeks out a familiar face for Insidious fans, Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye). Rainier reluctantly helps the young girl despite having given up use of her gift to speak to the paranormal. The reading ends abruptly and Brenner is sent on her way. Brenner tries to seek out her mother’s spirit on her own and accidentally invites a malicious spirit who wants the young girl.
Young actress Stefanie Scott does a good job playing her role. She doesn’t have many impassioned speeches or huge acting moments but she shows an appropriate amount of distress at the loss of her mother and fear for… well the rest of the entire movie really. Dermot Mulroney is an actor I’ve never seen value in. His delivery is stiff in everything he does and I don’t buy him as the father in Insidious 3 at all. He never seems to care about his kids (the writer’s obviously didn’t care about his on screen son) and furthermore he doesn’t even seem to care that he’s in the movie at all. If a better actor turned in his performance I’d assume they were doing the movie against their will.
I mentioned a brother, a brother I forgot existed until the moment of this writing. Alex Brenner (Tate Berney) is such a non-event I’m not sure why he was included in the story at all. This isn’t the only character who takes up screen time and payroll for no benefit to the story. The typical teen best friend, Maggie (Hayley Kiyoko), is only in a few scenes and while a couple of the scenes involve story they could have easily been done without Kiyoko at all. Fun fact, Hayley Kiyoko and Stefanie Scott are in the upcoming and inevitably bad Jem and the Holograms movie running through post production right now. The neighbor boy who has a crush on Brenner was added in for one creepy scene and doesn’t offer anything to the story. The unbalance in the writing and apparent need to cast characters that went nowhere is the most confusing thing about the entire movie.
Lin Shaye is the glue that the franchise seems to lean on. She does a fine job acting against nothing (spirits and special effects added in post) but by the time this third installment rolls out it’s getting a bit tiresome. Rainier is given a couple storylines of her own in Insidious 3, neither are developed in any real way though. Rainier gave up on using her abilities because a vengeful spirit is chasing her down. This is built up so much the audience is promised an epic confrontation, without spoiling too much, that promise is not kept.
This is where the freshness of Insidious really wears thin. The original story, for those who don’t remember or didn’t see it (you should by the way) was of a kid who’s consciousness would ‘wander’ in the spirit world. When his essence leaves his body all sorts of spirits compete to try and take ownership of his body; since the dead envy the living. Cool concept, sure, but Insidious Chapter 3 barely tweaks the formula so it feels like we’re all walking down a path we’ve been on before. The main spirit chasing the protagonist the entire movie is very well done. The imagery is eerie and understated. The monster design follows the cardinal rule every horror movie should follow but only the good ones do. Less is more.
Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (Leigh Whannell, also first time director in Insidious 3) show up again. They played a goofy sort of comic relief that was well balanced in the first film in the franchise. In Insidious 3 they feel like characters overstaying a cameo. They have a couple forced moments with some ham fisted on the nose dialogue with Rainier just to remind the audience (beat the audience over the head) that they are characters from the first film and that this is a prequel.
All in all Insidious 3 is the typical modern horror movie. It offers no surprises or real scares. Some creepy and unsettling feelings mix with a score of ominous tones. The acting is there, the scenery is there, a full crew came out to make a movie. Just wait for Netflix on movies like this one. There are worse ways to spend 90 minutes but it isn’t exactly worth the cost of a ticket.