Director – Leigh Whannell
Cast – Stefanie Scott, Lin Shaye, Dermot Mulroney, Angus Sampson, Tate Berney, Michael Reid MacKay, Jeris Poindexter, Phyllis Applegate, Steve Coulter, Hayley Kiyoko, Tom Fitzpatrick
Release Year – 2015
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Insidious is one of the most notable horror films of this decade. Directed by James Wan (The Conjuring, Saw) and co-written by Leigh Whannell, it is a modern day supernatural horror film done right. It’s sequel, Insidious: Chapter 2, was a bit of a letdown as it failed to match the scares of the original, and was too long for its storyline. Because of this, and James Wan not directing due to scheduling conflicts with Fast & Furious 7, I had mediocre expectations for this effort – a prequel at that. So, I forgot about the film until my friends who attended the midnight premier felt it necessary to tell me how scary it was. Because of their reactions I decided to give this a watch, and sure enough…it scared me. This entry, the directorial debut of writer Leigh Whannell, is exactly what the series needed. If this is indeed the final effort of the franchise, it went out with a hell of a bang.
Years before she lost her life saving the Lambert family’s youngest child from The Further (oops. Insidious spoiler), Elise Rainier came out of retirement to take on the case of a young girl who found herself the target of a malevolent supernatural entity.
The story begins with Quinn Brenner paying an unexpected visit to Elise Rainier, claiming she heard the woman can speak to the dead. Elise is reluctant to help Quinn, as her career of helping the living fight opposing supernatural forces has come with a price. The dark forces are on to Elise, and as long as she does not mess with them she believes she “should” be safe. She sees the desperation in Quinn, a young 18-ish year old who still has a lot to say to the mother she lost to cancer, and she bites. Elise had no reason to suspect anything dark regarding Quinn’s situation, but she soon learns that she made a grave mistake, and it is one that is going to affect Quinn as well. Stating, “if you call out to one of the dead, all of them can hear you”, Quinn goes home to a situation she is far from prepared for.
An accident, caused by the force haunting her, leaves her in a wheelchair with casts on both legs. This immobility will be used to create good tension later on in the film, and I applaud writer Leigh Whannell for incorporating this into the story in a worthwhile manner. It is after this that the horror is amplified to extreme levels that I was not expecting from the third film in the franchise. The horror was paced very well, coming at us consistently throughout the remaining 80 or so minutes and never relenting. The quality of the horror was equally surprising. Whannell expertly wrote scenes that were drawn out to leave us feeling exposed, with the scare creeping ever so slowly and increasing in severity because of this. We see at least three different antagonists and all of them are scary in their own right. A few of them are seen later on in Insidious and Insidious: Chapter 2, and this effort introduces a new entity to fear – “The Man Who Can’t Breathe”. I loved how this character was used and he scared the hell out of me on several occasions.
Unlike the Poltergeist remake that recently debuted a few weeks ago, the characters are written well. Quinn’s passion about reaching out to her mother is heartfelt and feels as real as can be. Her conflicts at home, from her loving but distracted father to her aspiring attempt to get into the acting school of her dreams, leave you feeling for her character. The same goes for the aging, lonely Elise, who is still suffering over the death of her husband. We are even treated to Specs (portrayed by Whannell) and Tucker in their earlier days, and naturally they are equally as goofy as you know them to be. There are many more characters involved in the film, and they each serve a positive purpose without any of them being wasteful or written to pass the time. On top of well-written characters, the acting performances were solid. Both the protagonists and antagonists were well executed. I cared for those I was supposed to care for, and I feared those I was supposed to fear.
Whannell’s first time on the director’s chair is a success. His execution of every element was top notch, and I would not be surprised if he learned a lot of this from his work with James Wan over the last decade. His atmosphere is fantastic, and a huge reason behind the highly effective scares. During the nighttime scenes literally everything is dark, and I mean pitch black. Aside from the light from a flashlight or an electronic device, there is no light in the room. Ambient / natural light does not exist here, and I adored that. This left the viewer constantly paranoid of what was moving in the dark, because you could definitely hear something moving around the room Quinn was in. You know it’s coming, but that isn’t enough to prepare you. Whannell’s execution is so good, that jump scares I would normally hate on instead left me in awe. There are cheap jump scares and there are quality jump scares, and these are quality. He does this by using live-action effects and having the antagonist stick around for more than a millisecond, instead giving me goose bumps by extending the scare as long as possible without overdoing it. The look of these antagonists, especially The Man Who Can’t Breathe, is incredible. Seeing him lurking from within the shadows of Quinn’s room was beyond spooky, and of course Whannell’s story delivers on what happens when he makes an appearance.
Overall, Insidious: Chapter 3 is a solid effort that I highly recommend you check out. The horror is incredible and the scares are highly effective. If you have your doubts, cast them aside and give this a chance. Because it is a prequel you don’t need to watch the previous films, although you will catch the cool nods to the previous efforts if you do.