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The horrific prequel Insidious Chapter 3 is a simple origin tale, putting out, in somewhat so-so fashion, the elements of how everyone’s second-favorite ghostbusters — courageous spiritual medium Elise Rainier and her hilarious sidekicks, consists of Specs and Tucker — got together. Does anyone really care?
Leigh Whannell apparently thinks so. The writer of all three Insidious movies — who also portrays Specs — takes over the director’s control from horror expert James Wan (The Conjuring), moving Elise (Lin Shaye) and the crew a little bit more front and center.
That’s fine by me. Along with Shaye’s supernatural exterminator, the characters of Specs and Tucker (Angus Sampson) were the best things about chapters 1 and 2, proving popular enough to spawn their own series of tie-in webisodes. But the two characters who serve as providers of comic relief is reminders of “The X-Files’ ” Lone Gunmen, are also somewhat contrasting. As Whannell explained to the fan site Dread Central in 2012, “There was this hatred that spewed out from fans saying, ‘I hated those guys! They sucked! They ruined the [first] movie!’ ”
Just for you know, Specs and Tucker are not what destroyed the first — or, for that matter, the following — film. That was both films’s over-the-top depiction of a fog-shrouded underworld populated by soul-sucking zombies and ruled by a Mephistophelian demon made up like Darth Maul. But as much as I and some people adore them, they are not enough to save Insidious Chapter 3 full movie from the same things that draw down the original two installments.
Set a few years before the haunting depicted in the first work, the third installment focuses on a teenage high school girl (Stefanie Scott) who has been targeted by a new evil stalker from the death, a realm known in all three films as “The Further.” This relentless etheric entity — called as, in rather clinical way, as The Man Who Can’t Breathe — is just what he seems like: an old man in a hospital gown wearing an oxygen mask.
I assume, to Whannell and his under-40 cohort, there is nothing more thrilling than the geriatric wing of a hospital.
Anyway, TMWCB haunts the place where Quinn (Scott) resides with her widowed father (Dermot Mulroney) and younger brother (Tate Berney), feeding off Quinn’s soul, which he seems to nosh on, in nibbles, the way a grandpa might take weeks to finish a snack-size bag of chips. His half-finished meal is rendered, in one of the film’s stupidest — and most literal-minded — visual effects, as Quinn’s body without a face, and with a couple of extremities missing.
For no specific reason, TMWCB also leaves behind oily footprints, which are there one minute and disappeared the in just seconds, whenever Whannell needs something to scare the audience off.
That’s unfortunately often in Insidious Chapter 3 film, which is more silly and soporific than scary. I’m glad to see Shaye making a return after her character was coldly killed off in Chapter 2. At 71, she’s still got what it takes to tangle with a poltergeist. And Specs and Tucker provide welcome fizz to the all-too-leaden proceedings. Even the reappearance of the deadly “Bride in Black” — the supernatural bad guy from the first two installments — is a nice thing.
It’s just that the “Insidious” franchise, after three attempts to exorcise its real demons, still can’t seem to shake what really haunts it: the ghost of B-movies past.
PG-13. At area theaters. Contains violent and frightening images and some coarse language.