2015 / Director. Leigh Whannell.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
To make a direct sequel to INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 2 would have been akin to flogging a dead horse. That storyline went about as far as it could and, although they may return to it in further instalments, it was a smart and calculated decision to go backwards.
Director James Wan has stepped aside and handed the reigns to his long-time collaborator LEIGH WHANNELL, who wrote and starred in the previous two chapters. This is his first directorial job and he has carried the torch effectively and with ease.
CHAPTER 3 is a prequel story. It could have easily told the insidious origins as referenced in CHAPTERS 1 and 2, but wisely opts for a new stand alone story. Taking place only a few years prior to the events of the first film, we follow a teenage girl with a malevolent spirit attempting to drag her into the darkness. Lin Shaye's Elise character agrees to help her overthrow the entity, while fending off her own demons.
When James Wan was directing these films he presented an atmospheric world that relied heavily on texture and a sense of dread. He told his story with vivid imagination and an unsettling production design that took the viewer into another realm and refused to loosen its grip. His films also presented an alternative type of haunting, that provided a fresh alternative to a weary formula. With Whannell's direction CHAPTER 3 falls back upon cheap scare tactics and an old school fright-flick mentality. Technically it occupies the same world as its predecessors, but it lis much more minimalist and lacks the originality. And yet it works... bare with me here.
The first two acts are comprised with a relentless succession of jump scares. Not a minute goes by without the score dropping out, followed by a few moments of silence, leading to the obvious FRIGHT! It's a tactic usually reserved for lesser entries within the genre, however, Whannell executes them brilliantly. I jumped out of my seat several times and were it any other film I would have found it tiresome. There is strange rhythm to the way each of these cheeky teases are spread. With the serious lack of musical arrangements, the scares themselves take upon an orchestral nature of their own. The fright-flow becomes hypnotic and comforting.
For the final act Whannell delivers the goods, in spades. He and Angus Sampson return to the screen in younger versions of the characters they played previously, and their place in this story is more hilarious than before. Dermot Malroney is a welcome addition to the franchise and delivers a strong performance, with his character resisting the formulaic convention of disbelief.
Best of all is that INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 3 is a tailor made vehicle for Lin Shaye to kick ass. She steps up to the forefront and carries the entire movie almost single-handedly. Her role is both physically and emotionally demanding and she embraces the opportunity with great gusto. If it weren't for her dynamic presence and sincere performance this would have been another run of the mill movie. Fans of the series can rest assured that this instalment offers a new story with different conventions and enough frights to boost the Nappy San stocks for weeks to come.
The years Whannell has spent observing the filmmaking process from his writer's chair has paid off. He has made his debut within a franchise, which has provided him a safety net. Had the film failed it could have been put down to the fact that it was a third entry. With his teeth now cut, here's hoping that he gives it another stab.