Tasked with creating a third Insidious film around a fairly one-beat idea - demonic spirits from an astral plane known as The Further sometimes hitch a ride back into the world of the living - franchise creator Leigh Whannell (who directs this third instalment in addition to reprising his role as bumbling ghost-hunter Specs), has done his best to avoid just remaking the first two films but with a new cast. The story of the Lamberts (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) in the first two films is done and dusted so, realising that the series’ most bankable assets are feisty demon hunter Elise Rainier (the always-watchable Shaye) and Specs and his cupcake-munching partner Tucker (Angus Sampson), Whannell has crafted a prequel to the earlier movies; this allows us to spend more time with Elise (killed off in the first film, brought back as a ghost in the second) and to establish her previous relationship with the world of the undead and her first meeting with Specs and Tucker, which leads to the unlikely partnership depicted in the original Insidious.
The film’s A-story is familiar enough; troubled teen Quinn (Scott) is determined to make contact with her recently-deceased Mom Lillith, but Elise’s reluctant attempt to speak to her from beyond the grave releases something nasty and bad-tempered, which is going to make life difficult for Quinn, especially when she’s housebound and virtually bedbound following a traffic accident.
It’d be all too easy to write Insidious 3 off as Insipid 3 because, in truth, this is fairly generic, predictable stuff. The scares aren’t really scary - we get the usual bumping and thumping, grasping hands, hideous faces looming out of the darkness, shuffling figures leaving oily footprints on the carpet - there’s nothing here we’ve not seen in a zillion horrors aimed at those of a nervous disposition. But Whannell, conscious of his audience, handles the inevitable story beats with precision, and the film perks up when Shaye is on screen and even the goofy ghostbusters aren’t quite as irritating as they’ve been in the past (or, chronologically, the future). Of course, our foreknowledge means the stakes are never very high whenever any of the three are in jeopardy, because we know where their story is going (and, indeed, where Shaye’s ends) but the final battle with the grisly Breathing Man still manages to ratchet up a bit of tension where the rest of the film has been spent largely going through the motions.
The cinematic circle is squared as Elise, Tucker and Specs walk off into the sunshine (which is a relief after ninety-odd minutes spent in gloomy interiors) with a new business enterprise brewing and a final ‘jump-scare’ which seems to lead directly into the first movie. It’s a decent and effective ending to a horror-lite franchise which really has run its course now and ought to be laid to rest. But we suspect that, like its otherworldly demons, Insidious will find it way back in a year or two…
INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 3 / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: LEIGH WHANNELL / STARRING: DERMOT MULRONEY, STEFANIE SCOTT, LIN SHAYE, LEIGH WHANNELL / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected Rating: 5 out of 10