[Insidious Chapter 3] This highly efficient – and unexpectedly moving – scare machine enhances the horror series to a whole new level.
After the wacky and bungled second film, the state of the Insidious franchise – jack-in-the-box spookshows from the Saw brigade – looked parlous. Insidious 3 takes everything that was broken and fixes it.
This gratifying multiplex-filler does nothing you’d exactly call revolutionary, but lots of things really well. It manages the all-important jump scares with the finesse of a skilled stage illusionist, but it’s the surprisingly sincere emotional core that makes it the pick of the series.
No knowledge of the previous entries is required to enjoy what nails perfectly well as a standalone horror: it delivers a new story about a grieving high school student, Quinn (Stefanie Scott), whose attempts to contact her deceased mother caught attention a host of unwanted demonic entities by mistake.
One – the one you would least want showing up in your bedroom late at night – is a scantily-clad spirit wearing a breathing mask, which waves at her from afar, and bear in mind that it’s not in a friendly way. Another, which if anything is preferable company, has no legs or face.
For long stretches of the film, no one except for Quinn can witness these, and her disappointing dad (Dermot Mulroney) thinks she’s out of her mind. Both actors connect sympathetically with their characters, but the real star of the show is Lin Shaye. She played a supporting role as the psychic, Elise Rainier, in the first two entries, and was straight-up hilarious in the first one, in gratitude towards her let’s-just-get-on-with-it way of dispatching things went from beyond the grave.
Here, she’s elevated to a leading role, and commits to it beautifully, even quite movingly – we may not have seen such a thoroughly fatigued ambassador for human-undead relations since Max von Sydow in The Exorcist.
Debuting for the first time as a director is screenwriter and co-star Leigh Whannell, who deserves serious praise here, not only for drawing out Shaye’s best performance, but also doing such a sharply brilliant, patient job with the build-up. Insidious 3 movie’s peak scares are created out of left-field and with a type of expertly timing: Whannell knows exactly what we might be expecting to take place and when, but he doesn’t just second-guess us, he even outplays us with third- and fourth-guesses.
Insidious 3 film’s a well-equipped machine for pushing our buttons, basically, but it goes one better on the average mainstream horror flick, simply by finding new buttons we didn’t even know we had, creeping up, and stabbing them all at once.