With “Insidious: Chapter 2,” it had appeared that this franchise had run out of steam very early, if for no other reason than the fact that the filmmakers felt the need to make a sequel that was pretty much a retread of the original film. However, its problems didn’t end there, as it also somehow managed to up the series’ silliness factor by trying to merge it directly with its predecessor (yes, apparently time travel is possible in “The Further”). Leaving themselves with pretty much nowhere to go, and with a rather important character having been dead since the original film, it was probably for the best that they chose to jump back in time for the next adventure, if they did indeed truly feel the need to try their hand once more at making a decent horror film. With a clean slate, perhaps they could finally accomplish just that.
Taking place a few years before the events of the original, “Insidious: Chapter 3” begins with a young woman, Quinn (Stephanie Scott), visiting Elise (Lin Shaye) in hopes of being able to talk to her deceased mother. Despite Elise having given up talking to the other side, she sympathizes with Quinn and tries anyway, only to be blocked by a demon that has been bothering her for some time. Elise leaves Quinn with one piece of advice, saying that she shouldn’t try to contact her mother on her own, for when she tries to contact one spirit, all of them can hear her. However, she has already tried and does try again, and soon she is being haunted by a demon of her own that wants to take over her soul. In his desperation, Quinn’s father (Dermot Mulroney) contacts Elise for help, who, with a little assistance from Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (Leigh Whannell), must venture into “The Further” in an attempt to save Quinn before she’s completely lost.
It should be noted right up front that this latest sequel is a small improvement over the previous film, which had really tried to do a little too much, and as noted, much of that was simply following the beats of the first film. For the third outing, writer/director Leigh Whannell chose to go with a much simpler approach, focusing the story on a young girl who is being haunted by a demon. It’s not exactly original, but at the very least, it’s not trying to be too over the top. That being said, the film is not without a number of its own issues that once again hold it back from being the effective horror film that Whannell wants so badly for it to be.
First and foremost, much like the first two films in the series, it has an over-reliance on jump scares. Instead of letting the horror evolve naturally from the situation this poor girl finds herself in, Whannell feels the need to punctuate every moment of terror with the old clichéd bang on the soundtrack, as if to inform the audience that they’re supposed to be scared at that moment. It’s a tiresome method that is usually reserved for horror films in which the filmmakers know that there’s nothing really scary going on, so they’ll just try to scare you any way that they can. “Insidious: Chapter 3” is no exception here. The demon haunting Quinn has a somewhat creepy look to him, wearing a breathing mask and looking haggard and wrinkly, but other than that, there’s isn’t really anything in here that even tries to be frightening, which goes a long way towards explaining the overuse of jump scares.
There’s also the problem of the story being a little too basic. Whannell was indeed right to scale it back a bit after the over-reaching second film had tried to cram too much backstory into it, but what we get here is a multitude of scenes in which the demon appears suddenly, suddenly grabs Quinn, or just throws her around a bit. It gets rather repetitive pretty quickly, but there isn’t really anything else it can do with such a simplistic story foundation. That’s not to say that it couldn’t have worked if the horror elements had been done correctly (i.e. lose the jump scares and focus on the actual horror of the situation), but it appears as though Whannell is only interested in going for the cheapest, easiest scares possible, leaving the film in a pretty deep rut.
At the very least, the standard finale for this franchise has managed to improve a little. In the first two films, when one character went into “The Further” to rescue another, it took up far too much time with them wandering about as they tried to complete their mission. This time, as Elise tries to rescue Quinn, it’s much quicker and actually provides a little tension as the demon attempts to stop her. Unfortunately it’s far too little and much too late to turn it around at this point. The problems have all compounded, leaving you caring very little as to whether Quinn is rescued or not, and giving you little more to do than sit back and wait for it to end.
Should we get another sequel in this already-tired franchise, one would hope that Whannell would take a large step back, not in time, but metaphorically so that he can see what he’s been doing wrong this whole time. That being said, it seems nearly impossible that, if he were to write another sequel, he could do so without retreading over the same stories that he’s already done. The first film had a great mood and atmosphere, but was just a little too silly and stretched out, while the second film merely got sillier and over-packed. This third film clearly shows that the series just doesn’t have anywhere interesting or original left to go, and so it’s probably best to end it here. The story has pretty much come full circle. Now it’s time to let it rest before things get really out of hand.
“Insidious: Chapter 3” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.39:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of outstanding quality. Like with many horror films, much of it is very dark, but the picture always remains remarkably clear without a hint of fuzziness. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is a bit of a mixed bag. Somewhere along the line, the audio seems to have been mixed improperly, giving you very soft dialogue, but everything else very loud. Because of this, you need to be very cautious as to where you set the volume, for if you set it too high to hear what’s being said, you just might give yourself a headache when it comes to the multiple jump scares/musical stings. Overall, while the audio needed a little work, if you can find the right balance, you are treated to a satisfactory experience that pairs well with the excellent video.
Origin Story: Making Chapter 3 (19 Minutes): A featurette featuring interviews with the cast and crew discussing the story and characters. It’s worth watching, particularly for all of the behind the scenes footage that’s included.
Stunts: The Car Crash (9 Minutes): Just like the title says, this focuses on the scene in which Quinn gets hit by a car. If you’re curious to know how they did it, then you’ll probably find it interesting.
Macabre Creations (9 Minutes): A fascinating look at the demons created for the film, including a detailed breakdown of “The Man Who Can’t Breathe” (the demon that haunts Quinn).
Cherry Glazerr: Tiptoe Through the Tulips (5 Minutes): A pointless interview with the band that covers a song for the film.
Being Haunted: A Psychic Medium Speaks (11 Minutes): If the topic of psychics interests you, then you may find this worthwhile, otherwise it’s easily skippable.
Deleted Scenes (5 Minutes): A collection of scenes that were easily cut from the film.
“Insidious: Chapter 3” may be a slight improvement over the previous sequel, but with its continued over-reliance on jump scares and a basic, repetitive plot, it merely becomes another chapter that will leave horror fans unsatisfied. This marks strike three for a series that has been on pretty shaky ground from the very beginning. If they should choose to venture forth for yet another outing (a very likely scenario given the film’s box office success), we can only hope that they’ll tread very carefully if only to avoid taking the franchise to even worse depths.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
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