Monday, June 8, 2015

Insidious: Chapter 3

Here’s the short version of my history with this series of films: Won an advance screening ticket to the first film. Loved it. Won an advance screening ticket to the second film. Disliked it.

After the blasé nature of Insidious: Chapter 2 I wasn’t keen on the prospect of another sequel. Once I learned that this was to be a prequel and not another rehash involving the Lamberts I was mildly intrigued. Then I heard that the focus was going to be on the most interesting character from this series – Lin Shaye’s Elise Rainier. Yessssssssssssss! Take my muthafuckin’ money!
Set a short while before the first film, Insidious: Chapter 3 revolves around Elise (Lin Shaye) coming out of self-imposed exile to stop a malevolent spirit attempting to possess young Quinn Brenner (Stephanie Scott).

I am happy to report that my fears were for naught. While Insidious: Chapter 3 isn’t nearly as tight and well made as the original film it is head and shoulders above the rushed mess that was Insidious: Chapter 2.
Series writer and first time director Leigh Whannell (Saw, Saw II, Saw III), who also plays Specs in these films, thankfully takes his time setting up the plot and developing the characters before unleashing hell upon them. It’s a breath of fresh air to see this approach, especially after the opposite was the name of the game in the summer’s other ghostly horror flick - the turkey known as Poltergeist. He smartly decided to make this prequel revolve around a new family and villain while at the same time letting clues as to what is coming in the first Insidious creep in to please the fan base. This is a fun mixture that not only gives further (no pun intended) insight into Elise’s past encounters with the spirit that will eventually end her life, but also gives her great character some much needed backstory. The story also takes a few welcome emotional turns that I really appreciated.

Whannell also gets some great performances from his troupe of thespians. I’ve never heard of Stephanie Scott before, but that girl is going places. She plays her character of Quinn, who is in a rather vulnerable place for the majority of the film, not as a victim but as a fighter. I found her to be spunky and a great fit for this series. I’ve never been a big fan of Dermot Mulroney, but he plays Quinn’s Dad rather well. I never thought I’d see him in a full on horror movie like this, but he pulled it off for the most part. He’s written as a better father than Sam Rockwell’s Eric in Poltergeist, that’s for damn sure. Whannell and Angus Sampson return as Specs and Tucker and have great chemistry once again.
It is the fabulous Lin Shaye that made this movie for me. She classed up the first two films a great deal and her beefed up role here goes to show that the filmmakers knew just that. She is fantastic as Elise and is given so much interesting and cool stuff to do this time around that I was happy as a clam. She also gets all the good lines (I especially liked “Being in love is a way of delaying pain.”) and audience pleasing moments (when she smack talked a particular spirit the audience I saw the film with cheered loudly). I was so glad she was finally given her own movie and it didn’t completely suck. She makes the most out of it.

On the flip side, the main plot about “The Man Who Can’t Breathe” isn’t anything to get too excited about since it traverses much of the same ground as the events in the first film. It sets itself apart by having not all that much to do with The Nether and focuses on events taking place in the real world. The history of the character isn’t all that interesting at all to be honest. We are given a generic explanation as to why he is haunting the apartment building in which the film takes place and why he wants to possess Quinn.  He does look scary (kudos to the make-up crew) and the sound effects used to signal his presence is some creepy shit (sound department win). How he is dealt with in the finale is a letdown though. It just kind of happens a little too quickly for my liking. It’s almost as if Whannell realized that his movie was about to hit that 90 minute sweet spot and needed to wrap things up as soon as he could. It’s not a horrible climax, just a little underwhelming.
But my main beef is the same problem I had with the previous film – lame ass jump scares. Where the first film was methodical about setting up its dread filled vibe while barely relying on overly loud noises or people suddenly popping into frame for a cheap scare, this one thrives on it. Just because one of the producers created the pointless Paranormal Activity franchise doesn’t mean you have to follow in his footsteps. The original Insidious worked without all that garbage. Why couldn’t this one? It’s cheap, and in my humble opinion, is what is ruining horror.

Another issue is something that shows a lack of confidence and creativity. That would be stealing gags from other films. There is a moment during one of the possession scenes that is just flat out ripped off from A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge involving someone’s tonsils and an eyeball. It took me out of the movie and I actually said aloud “Seriously?!” That was a signature moment from Nightmare 2 and it’s thrown in here all nonchalantly as if it was something original on the part of the filmmakers. Not cool.
All things considered, Insidious: Chapter 3 could have been a complete clusterfuck. It’s the third film in an uneven series. The safe route was taken since most third installments in recent horror franchises do the prequel thing. Most of the original cast/characters are missing and replaced by new ones. 90% of PG-13 horror films are trash. Etc.

This flick was a pleasant surprise. I was totally expecting to hate it, like part 2, but instead I found it a fun summer horror movie that took as many risks as it played it safe. There are genuine scares here mixed in with the cheap jump variety, the characters are fresh and well written and it does a nice job of telling its own story while also not beating us over the head with setting up the film that follows. I quite enjoyed this prequel. If there is another installment I hope we go further back in time to see Elise when she was in her prime.

3.5 out of 5

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