So if they’re titling the movies like chapters in a book, shouldn’t this one be called Insidious: Prologue?
The deceptively titled Insidious: Chapter 3 takes place a few years before the first movie and chronicles Elise Rainer (Lin Shayne) coming out of retirement to save Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott), who is haunted by an asthematic demon called the man who can’t breathe after inadvertently calling out to him while trying to contact her recently diseased mother. Rainer had retired when she started being haunted herself by the woman in black, who similarly responded to her when she tried to call out to her own lost husband.
Insidious 3 is just as repetitive and not really that scary as the rest of the series and about eight times as derivative. The apartment is straight out of The Shining, the man who can’t breathe is Hannibal Lector with Darth Vader’s breathing apparatus, the plot is straight out of Poltergeist for the third straight time and references to J-horror, movies that have grown so similar themselves it’s hard to single out which scenes are referencing what, become more prominent as the film goes on. But even so, it’s well executed and difficult to take eyes off the haunting sequences. It holds attention. The formula is the formula for a reason.
This movie is Leigh Whannell’s directorial debut, and he also writes for the third time in the series, but like the rest of the Insidious movies, producers Jason Blum and James Wan’s fingerprints are all over this. Wan directed the first two, and Blum is the producer behind these movies, the Paranormal Activity movies, the Sinister movies, the Purge movies and every other horror franchise active right now. In a lot of ways, Insidious 3 is the pinnacle of what Blum has always been trying to do on a technical level, with actors appearing suddenly within a shot or the way these movies use sounds in jump scares. It’s all well and good, them sorting this choreography out, but they don’t tell any better of a story with it.
At the tail end, the movie tries to be about Brenner dealing with grief as a child while Rainer overcomes it from an adult perspective, and it fails. It’s still a movie about jump scares and references. The sudden mention, “Oh, by the way, this movie has subtext!” only serves to let viewers know the movie could have been a lot better. Again, this feeling is common for horror movies and nothing new for this series in particular.
The best thing the movie does is make Rainer a main character. The ghost hunter ex machina storyline was a problematic cop out even in the original Poltergeist, and her character was a distraction from the haunting in the first two movies despite being clearly the best part. In this movie, Rainer gets the spotlight she deserves with her own set of internal conflicts and motivations. However, this does set up some continuity issues, as it is implied that the woman in black and the Darth Maul demon stalk Rainer, instead of the Lambert family from the first two movies. This discrepancy is probably due to the generally poor storytelling group at the top thinking it was a necessary change to justify Rainer’s prominence.
In addition to these ham-handed ties to the first movies, Insidious 3 fellates itself several times, with Rainer repeatedly saying the woman in black will kill her, showing her meeting Specs (Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) and telling them they should team up and what they should wear, and pausing for a second to talk about how “The Further” is a particularly good name for the netherworld as if it were something that genuinely set these movies apart.
Ultimately, the movie will leave you thinking the same thing many other Blumhouse productions do — why? Nothing about this movie doesn’t remind me of something else. Why watch it?
Leopold Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist and journalism student at the University of North Texas. Adam West: Still the best Batman ever. I’ve had a change of heart about reader input. It is now welcomed and encouraged. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter @reelentropy, and shoot questions to reelentropy@.