Set before the Lamberts, Chapter 3 wastes no time re-introducing the audience to series badass Elise Rainier, played by the equally badass Lin Shaye. This Elise, however, is more reclusive and reluctant to help when a teenaged Quinn Brenner shows up at her door asking for help contacting her dead mother. Elise tells her she’s given up all psychic readings and stepped away from that part of her life, but hesitantly lets Quinn inside. It’s clear that they share grief and personal loss in common, but it affects Elise’s ability in a negative way and she sends Quinn on her way with a warning not to attempt to contact her mother without an expert’s assistance anymore. Calling out to just one of the dead means all of the dead can hear.
Of course, Quinn’s loss feels too raw to really understand Elise’s warning and she continues to reach out to her mother as she struggles to cope while her father, played by Dermot Mulroney, relies far too much on his daughter to help raise her younger brother. The pressure is too much, especially when all she wants is to nail an audition that will land her into her dream theater school.
Quinn thinks she’s made contact with her mother when she notices her diary has been moved to new places, or when she sees a shadow wave to her from above the rafters at her theater audition. But when the appearance of the entity a second time causes a car accident, leaving Quinn with two broken legs and bed ridden, the entity found the opening it needed to latch on to Quinn and wreak havoc on her life.
The Man Who Can’t Breathe wins as the most terrifying entity in the entire trilogy. He feels far more malicious, too, in his relentless pursuit of the mostly immobile Quinn. The tension is palpable in scenes, when the only escape Quinn has from his clutches is the bell that beckons her father to her side. The Man Who Can’t Breathe even uses this against her. Quinn’s father, exhausted and suffering through his own grief, doesn’t truly believe that his daughter is being haunted until one extremely creepy scene involving a window in their very high up apartment. Protective instincts kick in hard, and he’s at Elise’s door to enlist her aid himself.
The first half of the film feels more akin to the Conjuring than the Insidious series. The jump scares and tension are ramped up to full speed, focusing on the entity that seemingly wants to possess Quinn, with the only connection to Insidious being Elise. This changes in the latter half, and fans of the series will be pleased.
The introduction of fan favorites Specs and Tucker, played by Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson respectively, bring in a much needed break in the story’s heavy atmosphere with their humor. It’s gratifying to watch their meeting with Elise for the first time. When Elise asks what their roles are in their ghost hunting duo, it’s clear that Leigh Whannell wrote these characters as mirror images of himself and James Wan. The blogger slash writer Specs and camera whiz Tucker seem to echo Leigh and Whannell’s roles in previous Insidious films.
Until now, that is. With James Wan stepping down from the director’s chair due to scheduling conflicts, Chapter 3 marks the directorial debut of Leigh Whannell. Which is perfect, considering he’s writer behind the series and it’s based on his characters. Who better to take the reins than someone who knows this series better than master James Wan himself? But creating a part three of any horror franchise is a difficult task, which is only compounded by cinematographer John R. Leonetti’s departure from the series. Brian Pearson does a great job taking over as cinematographer, but it does have a different aesthetic than the previous two entries. Also gone is the almost funhouse, eccentric design of the ghosts inside the Further.
While the hauntings of the first two chapters seemed to take a secondary role to fringe theories like astral projection or time travel, Chapter 3 plays like a straightforward haunting complete with all of the clichés. But what it lacks in new ideas, Whannell compensates by injecting heart and emotion. Loss and grief permeates the film, providing true character depth and emotion. These characters connect to each other in ways that feel true.
The most important thing that Whannell may have nailed is to set Chapter 3 as a prequel, giving the most interesting character of the series the spotlight; Elise. Lin Shaye stole the show in the first chapter, and nails her role again in this outing. She stretches her acting limbs as a broken Elise that slowly finds her inner strength. Elise will break your heart and then later make you throw your hands in the air and cheer.
Overall, Insidious Chapter 3 feels like a departure from the main series but still has enough in common to feel like it belongs. Leigh Whannell pumps the film full of jump scares and tension building familiar to most haunted house flicks, but still manages to effectively scare. He also peppers in many tiny nods to the previous films, and fans will relish the nods and easter eggs. Most importantly, he gave the film heart. Leigh Whannell had a herculean task before him in creating an enjoyable third entry in the franchise, and though it wasn’t flawless, he succeeded.
Rating: 8 out of 10
About the Author
Meagan Navarro is a blogger from Houston, TX. She fell in love with monsters at age four after being exposed to them via Ghostbusters, and her passion grew into an obsession for all things horror and Halloween (which is the entire month of October, as far as she’s concerned). Meagan also loves traveling and chocolate.