Directed by Leigh Whannell.
2014. Rated PG-13, 97 minutes.
When your movie becomes vastly overrated and, wildly profitable, it only makes sense to put out a sequel. When the sequel doesn't fare as well with critics, but still makes goo-gobs of money, the next step is to make a prequel. I guess. This, boys and girls, is how we've arrived at Insidious: Chapter 3. Set "a few years before the Lambert haunting," the story centers on Quinn (Scott), a young girl whose mother has passed away. After unsuccessfully trying to contact mom on her own, Quinn enlists the help of series medium Elise Rainier (Shaye). A brief, ominous session occurs, following which Elise pretty much tells Quinn to suck an egg and warns her against trying to contact mom by herself. Quinn goes back to the apartment where she lives with her dad Sean (Mulroney) and younger brother Alex (Berney). Naturally, things going bump in the night ensue. Oh yeah, before that Quinn breaks both legs getting hit by a car, so she can't even run from said things.
One of the strengths of the series is its creepy visuals. That continues to be the case. Discolored and deformed apparitions often reveal themselves to Quinn. They also push her around in her wheelchair, throw her out of it, etc. Most often utilized is The Man Who Can't Breathe. Most memorable is a gir with arms and legs, but not hands or feet. Nor does she have eyes or a mouth. Seeing her crawl about is a sight to see. Having them man-handle our heroine overcomes a problem that plagued the first movie. In that one, all of the ghosts were wonderfully realized, but benign. It never felt like the Lamberts were in any real danger. Here, we really worry about Quinn's well-being.
Horror vet Lin Shaye does typically awesome work, but her character's involvement is problematic. We know that she's got to be at the end since this film is set chronologically earlier that the others. The feeling of knowing what's going to happen is an issue for many prequels. This one goes out of its way to give us that feeling. It then compounds the error by telling her story in such a way that it fundamentally alters the way we view the first film. When watched alone, the original is about a family dealing with a supernatural entity in their house. Adding in the context of this movie makes that of secondary importance. The first Insidious is now about Elise's long relationship with a particular spirit. This marks Elise's presence in Insidious: Chapter 3 as little more than a way to actually connect to the prior films.
The apartment building setting also works against the film. A large part of what makes haunted house flicks work is the isolation of the victims. There is a violation of the trust that we are alone once we shut our doors for the night. You never quite get that experience in an apartment building. Even if you never communicate with your neighbors, you're constantly aware of them .You can hear their noises and know they can hear yours. Therefore, that no one else in what we know is a populated building feels impossible. This is addressed by the apartment above where Quinn and her family live is vacant. Unfortunately, this is not only mishandled, it's superfluous. For some unexplained reason, our evil spirits keep dragging her up there and making all sorts of racket. Somehow, everyone else in the building, aside from her father, is completely oblivious to what's going on. This includes Quinn's brother. He is superfluous himself, serving no purpose whatsoever. Apparently, he sleeps like rock. Also strangely unaware is the older couple we repeatedly see in the halls and elevators. The wife, evidently suffering from Alzheimer's randomly says ominous, allegedly important things. Though we keep coming back to these people and occurrences, none of it amounts to a hill of beans aside from padding the runtime.
Insidious: Chapter 3 is most successful during sequences when Quinn and the ghosts are interacting. It also works, but to a lesser degree, when Elise is involved. It struggles mightily whenever anything else is going on. Too many things happen that are just pointless to the story being told and not interesting enough for us to care about them as subplots. It makes the first two acts plod along with periodic pockets of excitement. The third act, while totally pre-ordained, is fun and zips by. When it's all said and done we're left with an average, possibly below average, haunted house flick. It's not nearly as enjoyable as Chapter 2, but not the worse way to spend an hour and a half. In my book, that makes it quite a bit better than the first. I know, I know. You love that one. Whatever.