Insidious prequel pulls its punches

FEWER SCARES: (From left) Scott, Shaye and Mulroney try to contact the dead in Insidious: Chapter 3.


    Jun 11, 2015

    Insidious prequel pulls its punches


    97 minutes/Horror/Now showing

    Rating: 2.5/5

    The story:

    Teenager Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott) approaches psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) to help her contact her dead mother, but Elise refuses. After an accident, Quinn becomes haunted by a terrifying entity and Elise grapples with whether she wants to help the girl.

    A PREQUEL to the Insidious horror films, Chapter 3 does not have as many scares as we have come to expect from the series, and has less of a clever connection with its predecessors than Chapter 2 had with the first film.

    But Insidious: Chapter 3 still holds my attention. Its mandatory family in peril is rather likeable - it offers a transformation of sorts for psychic Elise, and gives us some well-timed and chuckle-worthy comic relief in the form of ghost-busting duo Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson).

    Whannell, a long-time collaborator with James Wan (Saw, 2004; The Conjuring, 2013), takes over the directing reins from him. Wan, who directed the first two Insidious films, makes a cameo appearance here.

    The most obvious difference in Whannell's film, compared with Wan's, is that the near-constant sense of creeping terror you got while watching the first film - and quite a lot of the second, too - is only there in patches.

    The Further, that land filled with the spirits of the dead, also looks different somehow, seeming less of a "place beyond" than it was in the earlier films: A cold and unsettling realm where all the inhabitants looked quite off-kilter. For the latest movie, it looks like a regular earthly setting, only lit differently.

    In Chapter 3, we find Elise living like something of a recluse after her husband's death. Quinn shows up to ask for help contacting her dead mother, but Elise declines for reasons that become clear later.

    Quinn tries doing so on her own, only to attract the attention of a nasty spirit in her apartment building (because, you know, she would not listen to the psychic's warning) and soon, she is terrorised and stalked by the beastly thing.

    While Whannell does not manage to keep the spooky atmosphere going consistently, he at least gets us to give a reason to like Quinn's family, the Brenners. They are a decent lot, far from television-perfect, struggling to stay together after their loss and each coping in their own way.

    Dermot Mulroney's beleaguered dad is a good guy trying to be stoic for his kids' sake; the bratty kid brother (Tate Berney) is still good for a laugh or two; and Scott's Quinn makes a wholesome and appealing heroine with understandable intentions, even if she seems a little too helpless at times.

    But it is really Shaye's film, and she gets to flesh out the character of Elise a little more, giving her a whole lot of self-doubt and showing that she was not always the fearless crusader of the earlier films.

    Chapter 3 is best enjoyed by "completists", who really must watch every yarn that is spun in and around the Insidious "universe".

    Casual viewers should find a few goosebump-raising moments here, but may find themselves wondering what this Further mumbo-jumbo is all about.