Set before the Lamberts had a bully ghoulie of their own, a young girl is haunted by a demonic presence that follows her back from “The Further” after a failed attempt to reach a loved one. With the spirit getting stronger with every passing scare, she must fight the fight of her life. Along with the old ragtag group of ghost getters we’ve come to love, including trusty medium Elise, the moment of truth is getting closer. If they fail, it could spell spiritual disaster. Welcome to Insidious: Chapter 3.
I’ve spent more time with the dead than the living- Elise Rainer
While I’ve been a horror buff since Gogurt and Lunchables were my best friends, I haven’t been completely satisfied with the current state of horror. Granted this year has been a little different, with entries like David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows, but horror has been dying for a while. It’s all cyclical, but it’s still true. So when a prequel was announced to James Wan’s insidious films, I was more than alittle underwhelmed. That all changed when I actually saw the film. So let’s all hope in the Ecto-1 and head to “The Further” as I review Leigh Whannel’s Insidious: Chapter 3.
Leigh Whannel directs the third chapter in the Insidious saga with focus, but considerably less flash than the two previous installments. Whannel, who created the series with frequent collaborator James Wan, steps in the often infamous directors chair for the first time with this prequel. While first time directors are always a crap shoot, I’m happy to report Whannel was more than up for the job. More than that, he knows where his strengths lie; scripting genuinely interesting characters and logical execution of plot, not being a director that has to use the camera to tell a story. This isn’t automatically a bad thing but more on the script later Deadites.
More from 1428 Elm
- Shudder Original Terrified: Poltergeist or Dimensional Beings?
- Godzilla Minus One makes the King of the Monsters terrifying again
- A Creature Was Stirring scares up yuletide frights
- Unwrapping the Unhappy Holidays collection on Shudder
- Holiday Horror viewing guide: 20+ movies to stream this Christmas
That isn’t to say the latest Insidious installment is under directed, in fact it’s far from it. The film’s an effective spook experience in its own right, there just isn’t a lot of well choreographed camera work or a lot of striking composition. Something highly talented filmmaker James Wan did with ease in the last two entries in the series. Where most inexperienced directors will over direct, waste time and money, and still end up with a choppy confused picture, Whannel knows to keep things simple enough so the direction doesn’t interfere with his story connecting with the audience. This mindset will help his direction in the future.
The acting in Insidious Chapter 3 is strong across the board, rarely, if ever, showing any blearing weakness. Given how this little horror show leans on its characters, the actors had more than a little steak on their plate when they signed the dotted line.
Stefanie Scott plays protagonist Quinn Brenner, a simple teen with big dreams and even bigger aspirations. She’s a woman without a mother, a kitten with cat scratch fever, in a world already scary. Not to mention the disgruntled sprit now vengefully ready to take the kitty to court. What makes Brenner shine is her ability to show the strength of someone who feels alone in the world, but not make it overly, too on the nose, obvious. It occurs when an actor fully understands the journey of a character and the context of that characters history playing into the time period of the story. Good stuff from the little likeable thespian.
The supporting players include Lin Shaye and Dermot Mulroney. Shaye is stellar, jumping back in the skin of Elise Rainer, which marks the third time the actress has donned the character. As a characters actor for years, it’s nice to see Shaye finally get the attention she deserves. Shaye, the sister of Hollywood legend Bob Shaye, who was responsible for Wes’s Craven’s masterpiece A Nightmare on Elm Street getting made, really knock this film out of the park. In a lot of ways, she the second lead and I enjoyed every second of it.
Then there’s Dermot Mulroney. The actor, who steadily works but one who hasn’t had much success, bring a complexity to the role of Sean Brenner. Not only does he add a lot of humor, which amplifies his likeability, but he shakes the line with his relationship to the audience. You don’t know just how good of a father he is until you do. I devoured the results.
Screenwriter Leigh Whannel has done the impossible; created a prequel that could be passed as the original feature. The scribe, who also plays Specs in the series, really impressed here. Not only does the film feel organically set in the world of the previous entries, but Quinn’s journey from mother seeking to demonically stalked is plot A first and foremost. The picture never loses focus of the protagonist. Lesser screenwriters would feel the pressure to over stuff a sequel or prequel with the mythology from the other entries, often at the expense of a protagonist. No main character equals redundancy.
More from James Wan
- M3gan is campy, goofy and anything but robotic
- Where to watch Malignant this weekend
- Malignant 2021 release date, trailer, synopsis and more
- Annabelle in Quarantine: What’s she conjuring up, now?
- James Wan’s new Universal film should use the Creature from the Black Lagoon for inspiration
That’s not to say the film isn’t beautifully orchestrated in terms of mythology and perpetual satisfaction. I’m hard pressed to think of another film that so effortlessly respects the mythology, while being its own narrative. Even when, during halfway through the film, Elise could be called the co-main character, she’s still in service of Quinn’s Journey. Plot A and B are marvelously intertwined.
In fact, the whole script is solid. Whanelle has knack for creating great stories and infusing them with real interesting characters. Quinn could have been generic, but in Leigh’s hands she’s extremely more fleshed out. The ending is also extremely satisfying and I left the theater with not only a smile on this face but A craving to rewatch the other two insidious entries.
Insidious chapter 3 is miles better than I ever expected. It’s the best prequel I’ve probably ever seen; nothing in my current whiskey drenched state can recall a better experience. The film is undoubtedly its own narrative, but enhances the mythology with attention to detail and focus. It’s funny, scary, and extremely satisfying, especially to the fans the first two Insidious entries claimed. So keep reading, stay watching and I’ll see you at the reviews.