Insidious: Chapter 3 is, to put it bluntly, a pretty terrible movie. I wish I could just end the review there but I guess it would be polite to explain why. So here goes. Insidious 3 is poorly written, not-very-well-acted and has some of the most predictable, lazy scares that the entire film barely qualifies as a cinematic film. It feels like something that was made for TV.
This film is split into two halves: the first follows Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott) as she suffers from an ever-brutal haunting while her father Sean (Dermot Mulroney) looks on helplessly. The other half follows Elise (Lin Shaye) in a sort of ‘origin story’ that tries to explain how she got into the business of helping people who are being haunted/attacked by spirits from beyond.
You see, Quinn’s mother passed away a year ago and is deeply missed, which shows up onscreen via Quinn constantly talking about missing her mom while Sean keeps claiming he is ‘drowning’ when trying to raise two kids and work full time. (That second kid? Quinn’s little brother? Don’t worry about him. The movie certainly didn’t.)
So when strange things start happening, little things like a shadow waving at Quinn, she desperately hoped it was her mother. Well, turns out that instead it’s ‘the man who can’t breathe’ and he really wants her soul.
This is when Elise gets involved, except she can’t help because ever since her husband died she’s been unable to travel into the spirit world without being attacked by an angry old woman. (And anyone who has seen the first two films in the trilogy can see all the ham-fisted tie-ins.)
So it goes, as Quinn suffers an accident that leaves her body in bad shape, Elise waffles from wanting to help to being too frightened to be of any use, and a few other people come and go as the story dictates.
Two characters that do make an appearance, although a nigh-useless one, are Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (Leigh Whannell, who also directed). Yup! It’s definitely a convoluted, useless origin story. They’re barely in the movie enough to justify putting them in there but supposedly so many people loved their characters in the second film that everyone involved thought this would be a good idea.
Now, some of the special effects are nice, such as most of the scenes that take place in The Further (Hell? Purgatory? Poorly lit backlot?) and ‘the man who can’t breathe’ is pretty creepy looking. But most of the movie hinges on shadowy figures and sudden movements. I feel like if the film were being directed by a more deft hand, very few changes would have needed to be made in order to turn this into a decent horror film.
Unfortunately two of those changes would have been to get better acting out of our stars and remove half a film’s worth of clunky dialog. Elise literally explains everything you have just seen or are about to see as she goes, like a book-on-tape version of the film. Meanwhile every single person who isn’t Elise is pretty damn bad at convincing the audience that they’re trying to act believably.
I’m going to go on record as saying that Insidious: Chapter 3 is better than the second film, but that’s like saying a kick in the balls is better than a shot to the head. Trust me, you don’t want anything to do with either.