INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 3. Starring: Stefanie Scott, Lin Shaye, Dermot Mulroney, Angus Sampson, and Ele Keats. Directed by Leigh Whannell. Rated M (Supernatural themes, violence and infrequent coarse language). 97 min.
This American film is embedded firmly in the horror genre. It is the third instalment in the "Insidious" series, and is a prequel to the first two films in that series, the last of which was "Insidious: Chapter 2" (2013). Many of the main leads take the same roles as they did in previous films in the Insidious series.
Like the other movies in this series, members of a family are haunted by contact with the spirit world, and this film is about their efforts to discover what is the childhood secret that has left them permanently at risk.
Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott) tries to connect with her dead mother, Lillith (Ele Keats), who died tragically of cancer a year before. She misses her mother very much, and she approaches Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye), who is a gifted psychic, to help her. After an attack on Quinn by a spirit demon, her father, Sean (Dermot Mulroney), begs Elise to use her special abilities to cross to the spirit world (labelled by Elise as "The Further") to help. Sean wants to ward off future attacks on his daughter, from "The Further", and he knows they will re-occur.
Elise knows that "if you call one of the dead, all of them can hear you". She refuses to help at first, but has sympathy for Quinn, who desperately wants to contact her dead mother. She eventually agrees to help Quinn, against her better judgement.
With increasing frequency, paranormal events start happening. Shadowy presences loom in Quinn's house, and multiple demons make appearances. "The Man Who Can't Breathe", for instance, who has half of Quinn's soul already, clearly wants the other half. When one of the spirits tries to push Quinn over a balcony ledge to kill her, it is obvious to Sean and Elise that Quinn is being targeted by different demons, who want her totally with them - body and soul.
The film is full of genuinely scary moments. There are impressive special effects to back them up, and the Director of the film (Leigh Whannell) makes excellent use of silences and menacing signs of "The Further" to reinforce their impact. The film is also characterised by excellent night photography. True to the horror genre, shocks occur suddenly and repetitively in the dark, and most of the demons make noises to signal they are about to attack.
Vulnerable and in a wheel chair (in an accident caused by one of the demons), Quinn fights demons on all sides and summons up what strengths she has to ward them off. There are some light moments between the scares; the musical score is appropriately atmospheric; and the film plays cleverly with the emotions of surprise and fear to give Elise's character dramatic depth. This is a movie, though, that pits good and evil entirely within the realm of the paranormal and supernatural. There is room for little else, like psychological illness or past emotional trauma, that might help viewers understand what really explains the haunting of Quinn's family.
As a horror movie, the film is effective and entertaining. Whannel's direction is confident and assured, and Lin Shaye's acting as Elise, is especially noteworthy. She imbues the role of the psychic Elise with maturity, and the film gives her character a great deal of scope for her to develop it.
The movie is a good prequel to the series. It combines dread with humour well, but true to type there are a large number of shocks from a rich variety of demons out there (or in there) in "The Further". At the end of the film, Elise returns to her own home, happy after rescuing Quinn. She opens a closet and a nasty demon leaps out, suggesting what might lie ahead in "Insidious: Chapter 4". Spirits in the dark world are now targeting Elise.
Peter W. Sheehan is associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting
Released July 16th., 2015