Insidious: Chapter 3
2015, PG-13, 97 min. Directed by Leigh Whannell. Starring Dermot Mulroney, Stefanie Scott, Lin Shaye, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell, Tate Berney.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., June 12, 2015
This third entry in James Wan’s horror franchise is a prequel rather than a sequel, and this time Wan turns over the directing chores to the series’ screenwriter Leigh Whannell, who also scripted the Saw movies. Whannell must be running out of ideas for new frights, since Insidious: Chapter 3 only lays claim to its horror bona fides with some sudden shock scares. But where the film really slacks off is in its character portrayals, creating a constellation of players about whose outcomes we care very little.Insidious: Chapter 3 takes place prior to the haunting of the Lambert family, whose tribulations provided material for the first two films. Chapter 3 tells the story of how Elise Rainier (Shaye), the psychic who helped the Lamberts, began practicing her trade again after a demon threatened her life and scared her away from using her gift. Elise drops her trepidation when teenage Quinn Brenner (Scott) seeks her out for help contacting her dead mother. The experience introduces Elise to a couple of ghostbusters, Tucker (Sampson) and Specs (Whannell), and the three go into business together – which is how they factor into the Lamberts’ lives in the two later-set films.
One thing this movie does right is to cast Lin Shaye in a starring role. Credited with supporting roles in nearly 200 movies and TV shows, the incredibly game actress is best known for some of her most outré roles. Unafraid of appearing unattractive, Shaye often steals scenes while coated with layers of unflattering makeup and bodily derangements (see her landlady in Kingpin or her dog-kissing neighbor in There’s Something About Mary). So watching her stare down demons while wearing an old-lady blue cardigan is a special treat. Add to that Stefanie Scott’s motherless Quinn, who puts the action into motion, and you have a horror movie with two strong female leads – no small thing.
The movie, however, has little else going for it. Quinn’s family – sad dad Sean (Mulroney) and annoying little brother Alex (Berney) – demonstrate few other character traits, making them a pallid protective circle. Fans of the first two films will enjoy witnessing the initial hook-up of Elise and the ghostbusters as business partners. But there’s little else here to capture a viewer’s interest: It’s mostly a waiting game for the next inevitable spook to go bump in the night.