Insidious Chapter 3 review

When the first Insidious was released in 2011 it split audiences and critics alike. While many applauded its dedication and commitment to its crazy story – seeing it as brave and original – others saw it as just a little bit too barmy. I was on the side of the former – I found Insidious to be a highly effective, atmospheric horror film which embodied a ton of great aspects, earning its place in the hall of fame for great modern haunted house scare-fests. Insidious 2, on the other hand, was a step in the wrong direction. Trying to be smarter than necessary, it abandoned much of what was enjoyable in the first film and became lost in its own nonsensical story. Needless to say, hopes and expectations were exceedingly low for the third in the franchise, but I am pleased and relieved to say that Chapter 3 is quite brilliant. It’s a welcome return to the genuine frights and chills of the first film and is also a lot lighter on the wacky elements.

Insidious Chapter 3 takes place before the Lambert family’s haunting and tells the story of Quinn Brenner (Scott), a high school girl plagued by a terrifying supernatural entity who seeks help from the psychic Elsie (Shaye). In this chapter we are given an insight in to how Elsie came to reluctantly use her powers, despite being tormented by demons of her own. Both of these two central stories are grounded in feelings of grief, loneliness and loss; the hauntings become manifestations of the character’s yearning for the other side, the side where their missing loved ones lie.
Delving into Elsie's story was a great decision. Arguably one of the best characters in Insidious, she must have lot of ghostly stories to tell and it's thoroughly satisfying to get an insight in to her life. The terrors she feels and the heartbreak she has gone through are nicely weaved in to the story and work very well as a parallel to Quinn's story.

Chapter 3 is successful as it tries to create a heartfelt feature that an audience can easily associate with. As a main character, Quinn is a smart girl whose intentions and actions are never less than understandable. She is a good horror heroine, a symbol of purity and goodness, someone who seeks the truth and is punished for doing so. Many horror films are rooted in similar ideas and follow characters who desperately try to make contact with their passed loved ones and Chapter 3 is an effective addition to this genre. The film manages to be equally as scary as it moving, with the haunted horrors working well as an intense background to the sorrowed stories that are at the forefront of the film. There are moments when Chapter 3 moves from being relentlessly frightening and genuinely chilling to poignant.

If we were to remove the supernatural elements of the film, it would be a heart-breaking story of a girl trying to kindle a relationship with her father. Familial relationships – particularly that of the father and son - were a key theme Insidious was concerned with. Here, we have an alteration which sees the father and daughter relationship explored, but also the mother-daughter. In a similar vein as Poltergeist (the original of course -sigh-) it is the mother who is the true key to restoring this family to normality.

The dread-ridden atmosphere conjured in Insidious returns with a bang, with the beautifully dark, stylised The Further delved in to once more. Technically and visually this is stunning to look at. The camera sweeps over the scenes with elegance and the Insidious red, harsh lighting and jarring music returns with a wonderfully transfixing, and genuinely chilling, quality. Just like the previous films it is a downright spooky place, filled with horrors that lurk within your nightmarish imagination. The film's obsession with sound to create tension and unease works perfectly, and there are many moments that will leave you on the edge of your seat. Some of the frights feel cheap and repetitive – we've seen similar scares in the previous instalments – but Chapter 3's ability to petrify can't really be denied. There are scenes of unbearable tension, which are made worse as Quinn can't run away – after being in a car accident she is restricted to a wheelchair. This restricts the film from presenting moments seen in stereotypical horror films; there's no running up the stairs or out the door for Quinn, she is literally at the mercy of her haunting – physically and emotionally.  There is a total breakdown of the protagonist which is terrifying, which not only heightens the fear the audience will feel – but propels us in to the story and helps us feel even more for her character. It's an effective touch which delivers a lot of fantastically startling scenes, many that will haunt you past your waking hours.

All in all, I'm a massive fan of this third entry in to the Insidious franchise and I really hope we get to see more. However It's difficult to imagine Insidious without the Lambert family, but director Leigh Whannel does a marvellous job.  It's an impressive debut that may not reach the heights of the first film, despite trying its damnedest, but it is a vast improvement on the second film. It's definitely not without problems and the film's element of surprise and unpredictability could be brought in to question. However, as the third in the series it does well to keep the spirit and quality of what made Insidious so enjoyable, but it is also able to stand on its own two feet with just enough freshness and individuality to give it its own identity. Insidious: Chapter 3 is a downright spooky, chilling and all-round entraining endeavour that should certainly please horror fans.

Insidious Chapter 3 at IMDb

Interview: Leigh Whannell on Insidious Chapter 3

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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