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Insidious Chapter 2 isn’t as remarkable as the first movie, but when news broke that Leigh Whannell was making his directorial debut with the next Insidious installment, I really thought we were going to get something special. James Wan was long gone, but we were getting the guy who penned the first two films. If someone knew how to dig deep and use the Insidious mythology effectively, it had to be him, right? Perhaps, but serving as writer and director might have been too much for his first go at the helm.
From the beginning, the character in the center of Insidious Chapter 3 is Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott), a high school girl who dreams of studying acting in New York. Trouble is, she’s having a tough time moving on after the passing of her mother, so she goes to see Elise (Lin Shaye) hoping that she can help her make contact. However, Elise urges Quinn not to try to reach out to her mother anymore because “if you call out to one of the dead, all of them can hear you.” Surely, Quinn turns the other cheek and ends up getting way too close to an evil entity called The Man Who Can’t Breathe.
Scott’s got a strong on-screen presence and I’m eager to see what she does next, but Quinn isn’t half as appealing as the Lambert family. It’s impossible not to feel for her due to her current situation, but she’s actually nothing more than just a wannabe actress who lost her mother. There’s some costume and production design that’s clearly meant to show off the things that she’s into, but those details and Scott’s natural charisma can’t give the Insidious Chapter 3 movie character personality all on their own.
But at least Quinn is likable. Dermot Mulroney is such an aching hollow and cliché dad on screen, you’ll beg that The Man Who Can’t Breathe would take him instead. Yes, his wife just passed away and maybe he doesn’t know how to relate to Quinn on a deeper scale, but that doesn’t grant him the right to say stuffs like, “This is my whoop-ass face,” and call Quinn selfish just because he doesn’t feel like doing some chores himself. Things are perhaps very hard for him, but the way Mulroney plays it, Sean Brenner appeared as a laughable cry baby who isn’t even able to get his kids ready for school, let alone helping his daughter fight off an evil spirit.
Sadly for Quinn, originally, Elise can’t do much for her either. The fire-face demon certainly gave her a few good scares, but for the most part, Elise remained calm, composed and powerful throughout the first two Insidious movies. However, that’s not the case here. The reason Elise agrees to help Quinn in the beginning is due to the fact that she understands how she’s feeling. Elise just lost her husband. It’s an intriguing predicament and could have cleared the way towards Elise finding back her confidence and feeling inspired to move on and help guys like the Lamberts, but instead, Whannell unnecessarily messes up her husband’s death and also gives Elise another trouble to deal with – she stopped contacting spirits because when she does, the Bride in Black is waiting in The Further ready to kill her. One mistake ends up taking away from another, which is especially detrimental when it comes to relating some of the events of Insidious: Chapter 2 to what takes take in this movie.
So now there’s no victim to cheer for, a poor use of the mythology and, on top of which, it’s not particularly thrilling either. Yes, Insidious featured a slew of jump scares, but those jump scares were always well woven into the scenes and the escalating situation between the Lamberts and what was haunting Dalton. Here, it appears as though Whannell and Co. thought, ‘Well, we haven’t had a good jump scare for a while now. Why not having something pops up?’ Yet, when they take the time to bring scares to Insidious Chapter 3 movie characters, locations and situations, they perform quite well. For instance, there’s a joke with a bell that’s quite clever and Whannell really works the fact that Quinn is entirely helpless after breaking both of her legs in an unfortunate car accident. The idea of being haunted by a malicious demon is scary enough. Imagine if it was coming after you and you can’t possibly bunch. That right there is good stuff.
Whannell certainly shows promise, and I’m still interested in seeing him do more as a director, but he wasn’t entirely ready to take on an Insidious film by himself. Insidious: Chapter 2 couldn’t stand to the original installment either, but at least that movie had style, energy and respected the rules of The Further. Insidious Chapter 3 movie is stylistically unremarkable, dull and doesn’t add very many pleasing layers to the characters or mythology.