Quinn (Stefanie Scott) and her father Sean (Dermot Mulroney) in Insidious: Chapter 3 (Matt Kennedy/Focus Features)
Being a serious horror fanatic, I’m often let down by the utter disrespect many film snobs show towards my favorite genre. Yes, there are loads of forgettable scary movies on the marketplace chock full of two-dimensional characters, hack dialogue and meaningless gore, but there are also a great deal of sophisticated, adult horror films replete with thematic complexity and rich cinematic aesthetics. Perhaps the best recent example of horror at its natural zenith would be the superb Insidious series.
Beginning with 2011’s Insidious, the uber-talented Australian filmmaking duo of director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell (Saw) introduced horror fans to a striking new variety of ghoulishly evocative horror depicting the everyday Lambert family who become the unwitting targets of vicious supernatural specters after their comatose son accidentally transgresses into an astral plane, thus becoming a vessel for spirits to seep into our world. The movie was an incredible success and was promptly followed by 2013’s slightly less gripping Insidious: Chapter 2, which continued to depict the Lamberts’ exploration of the “Further” realm. Now, only four years following the original’s opening, the newest chapter of this spine tingling franchise will haunt viewers when Insidious: Chapter 3 slithers into theaters this weekend.
After penning the franchise’s initial two installments, Whannell leaps into the director’s chair for the very first time to helm this new adventure. Rather than acting as a straightforward sequel, the action of Chapter 3 actually takes place before the occurrences of the first chapter. We follow teenage aspiring actress Quinn (Stefanie Scott), who visits retired psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) (a beloved character from the first two movies) in an attempt to communicate with her dead mother. Instead, she accidentally unleashes an evil, gas-mask wearing spirit known as “The Man Who Can’t Breathe” upon her household. Desperate for a solution, her doting dad Sean (Dermot Mulroney) calls in a reluctant Elise to return to spiritualism for one night to save his daughter. Joined by doofy web-cam toting would-be ghostbusters Specs (director Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), Elise must venture into the cloudy ether of the Further to extract Quinn from the claws of pure evil.
Man, this picture is one hell of a ride – as tight and well-paced as any American horror film since The Conjuring (directed by none other than James Wan). Any doubts stirred up by the sloppy, slap-dash nature of Chapter 2 should be instantly erased by Chapter 3, which marks a complete return to form and an impressively strong directorial debut by Whannell. Strikingly insistent on setting his vision for the franchise apart from his old partner Wan’s, the talented multi-hyphenate gives Chapter 3 a completely fresh vibe by choosing to set it in an urban apartment as opposed to the placid suburbia of the first two movies. Seemingly more inspired by Se7en and The Exorcist than Poltergeist and Blue Velvet, the grim and grimy textures of worn-down Hollywood come to life in the dim light of Brian Pearson’s cinematography. In addition, Scott gives what could be a breakthrough performance as a scream-queen par excellence, Mulroney exudes major dad-charm and Shaye serves up a turn that just might rival Zelda Rubinstein as the pre-eminent “Ghost Expert” on film.
Overall, if you’re a fan of the Insidious series, or just horror in general, Insidious: Chapter 3 is an absolute must watch. Filled with jarring jump scares, nail biting suspense and more palpable unease than you can shake a stick at, this third outing pumps new life into one of the genre’s biggest marquee titles.
Insidious: Chapter 3
Opens in theaters June 5
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