I’d like to tell you that I enjoyed INSIDIOUS CHAPTER THREE. I’d like to say it’s a worthy follow-up to the first two films. I’d like to say I walked out of the theater without wishing for my thirty-three dollars back. I’d like to do all these things, but unfortunately I cannot. There’s just no getting around it, INSIDIOUS CHAPTER THREE is a dud, a stinker, a slightly polished turd, an overall underwhelming experience.
I was down with the whole calling-them-chapters thing because it made sense, if we think of INSIDIOUS as a book than each film is the next ‘episode’ that takes place. I was down for this when the sequel was called INSIDIOUS CHAPTER TWO. So how do you justify calling the prequel INSIDIOUS CHAPTER THREE? Shouldn’t the title be INSIDIOUS CHAPTER ZERO, or INSIDIOUS PROLOGUE, unless your book is painfully non-linear, which—I guess—is what they’re going for. Lame.
Whereas the first two installments of the series were cooked up by the creative team behind SAW and DEATH SENTENCE, director James Wan and writer Leigh Wannell delivered the goods in heaping amounts. This time around wunderkind James Wan has stepped down as director (he isn’t completely gone as he has a humorous cameo appearance in the film), and Leigh Wannell took his place, making Leigh the writer, director, and one of the major characters in the film. I don’t know this for sure, but I’m thinking the reason Wannell directed was because the studio wanted to get the movie to the public fast and with James Wan directing the seventh (!?!?) installment of FAST AND THE FURIOUS, either Leigh Wannell had to step up and become a first time director, or potentially let the studio bring in some guy to direct it that didn’t share Wan and Wannell’s passion for the series. Like I said, I don’t know that for sure, but the pieces to the puzzle seem to fit this way in my head.
For Wannell, wearing that many hats in a production, it does seem like a matter of time before you feel their burden. In the case of INSIDIOUS CHAPTER THREE, though, Wannell (who is usually stellar as a writer and passable as an actor) drops the ball, all of the balls. Even the writing is…I don’t want to say ‘bad’, but perhaps ‘off’. Now I don’t want to make the mistake of saying the movie is bad, as a standalone film it could have worked, actually. However, even though the film isn’t bad, it’s far from good. Let’s delve into a few reasons why.
He isn’t the main focus of the film, but Dermot Mulroney is the biggest name in the cast. Now, I’m a fan of Dermot Mulroney, I think he’s done some good things in the past, but holy hell is he just jaw-droppingly terrible in this movie. Every line comes out like he’s reading cue cards off-camera. At points it is so bad it’s laughable, like when he’s trying to comfort his daughter, but he delivers it in such a way to suggest he’s more clueless than Lenny in OF MICE AND MEN. Since I’ve seen him do well in the past, the fault for this pretty much falls in the lap of the director, Leigh Wannell, for not giving him much in the way of direction. That’s the only possible reason for his joke of a performance, seeing—like I said earlier—Mulroney has done quite well in the past.
The rest of the cast do a decent job, Lin Shaye (whom I hold as the real star of the INSIDIOUS franchise) does very well for most of the movie, except during her emotional monologues and the getting-the-band-together scene of the film towards the end. There are several emotional monologues in INSIDIOUS CHAPTER THREE delivered by different characters, all of them fall flat on their face.
I can only assume that Wannell, as writer, was trying to recapture that spark from the first film where we had all the feels, and even—to a lesser extent—the feels we got once or twice from INSIDIOUS CHAPTER TWO. In attempting to recapture the spark, Wannell tries too hard, making each attempt feel more wooden than the last. Whether it’s Mulroney trying to protect his daughter, extraneous characters talking about their wives or their crush on the protagonist (Stefanie Scott, no relation), or even Lin Shaye talking about her dead husband, or how—when it comes to being a psychic—she’s too old for that shit. Each speech is loaded with artificial ‘you’re trying too hard’ dramatics, and even further loaded with exposition.
Speaking of the extraneous characters, let’s talk about that. INSIDIOUS CHAPTER THREE has more characters than either of the previous installments, but they don’t seem to belong. I guess you can make a choice, either they belong there and are just written poorly, or they exist purely as a writer’s device to do a scare or give important information in one scene. THEY’RE BOTH COMPLETELY SHIT OPTIONS!!! Either Wannell doesn’t know how to write for a movie with more than six characters, or he’s a hack writer.
So many characters, but they don’t really contribute to the overall story. It almost seems like each exists to set up a scare later, or a revelation later, and then they are never heard from again. All the people in the apartment complex are very much two dimensional characters, hell, even Mulroney’s son is an extraneous two dimensional character who exists only to suggest Mulroney call some ghost hunters. These characters show up once, so we know they exist, and then they show up one second time with the scare, or the revelation, and then they are never heard from again. Pretty weak sauce, Wannell.
The suffered writing is definitely the weakest part of this movie, but it isn’t the only part. It didn’t feel like a completed movie, or at least it felt very rushed. We never took time to breathe. This you would think is a good thing, like the first, so full of tension with few places to just breathe. However, it’s not a good thing. There’s some scares, there’s some fear, there’s a creepy factor to some sequences, there’s a particular horrific scene that will haunt me for the rest of my life. But most of it is talking, or setting up for a probably lame jumpscare.
Yes, this movie likes to pop out and say ‘BOO!’ a lot, which is not very sophisticated considering the first two films focused on atmosphere, relations, fear that got under your skin, very few jumpscares. INSIDIOUS CHAPTER THREE must have known it had very little so you see the old man with the oxygen mask A LOT in quick little bursts for the majority of the film.
Oh, and how do you feel about the color red? The red motif of the first film was used sparingly, red lipstick demon, red door. Just a few red things in it. But jump to INSIDIOUS CHAPTER THREE and holy hell, not a single scene (seemingly) goes by without tons of red imagery, mostly painted walls, but many props are red, or give off a red light. So if the color red is your thing, you’re going to LOVE this movie.
It’s been about 12 hours since I saw it Thursday night, and I haven’t thought hard enough on what all the red meant. It couldn’t just be a directorial concept that devoid of substance, was it? Someone set me straight, I’m sure there are a lot of theories out there and I want them all in the comments section below.
Ugh…and what is it with ‘The Further’? Apparently everything there is solved with a shoving match. Ghost choking you? Shove ‘em. Bad guy catching up to you? Shove ‘em. Bad guy has protagonist? Shove ‘em. 100% of the time, it works every time.
But, hey, no reason to be a jerk to the whole movie and write it off as pure shit and move onto the next one. It had some good stuff. We learned a lot about Elise that was nice, we never did know much about her backstory in the first one, other than she was a psychic. In the second film we toured her house and learned how deep into this world her rabbit hole goes. In the third film we learn so much that motivates her for the trials to come. She also names ‘The Further’, and forms a business with Tucker and Specs (a scene that’s far too whimsical and easygoing to take seriously in a movie like this). Specs and Tucker are still the comic relief, giving us a few laughs here and there. Mulroney’s line deliveries provide the most laughs, of course.
Quinn’s (Stefanie Scott, no relation) legs were shattered in an…accident (but to not spoil it I’m not telling you what kind of accident) that puts both her legs in casts, making her pretty much a captive audience for anything that wants to mess with her, and OOOOOOOOOH does it ever! There’s real terror in those scenes, when she’s splayed out on the floor, can’t get away, and the dead man is walking around her room, making the room darker and darker by pulling the drapes, switching the light, and closing the door. It’s a pretty creepy scene and it is shot extremely well so that we never see more than the feet and an arm of the dead man. There’s another scene that had my throwing up in my mouth because it was so uncomfortable and over the top (in a good way for a horror movie) that had me wishing I had closed my eyes and covered my ears. But I didn’t, because I’m brave…when it comes to horror movies, not so much at life.
I also like that it’s a different demon in this prologue. The sense that I got from the trailers was that we were going to get the origin story of the lip-stick-demon. Instead we got a muddy man (that leaves muddy footprints everywhere, even on walls) with an oxygen masks terrorizing Quinn so that he can make her his new ‘pet’ in ‘The Further’. Which does remind me that I liked this demon’s motives was not to find a vessel and have life again, this one likes feeding on lifeforce, has no desire to leave ‘The Further’ which is a very creepy concept. Makes it much more different than the first two installments.
They also did a nice tie in to the Lambert haunting, brought back the photos of a young Patrick Wilson. The Grey ‘Lady’ is back and it promises that sometime soon, she will get Elise, and kill her.
So in the end, INSIDIOUS CHAPTER THREE is not a worthy sequel, the game is changed, but in the worst possible ways. We need Wannell to focus on what he does best, write, we need to wait for the wunderkind James Wan to return to direct, and we need to look forward, not backwards. The Scooby Doo-ish set up they have by the end of INSIDIOUS CHAPTER TWO is something I would definitely pay money for. But as far as INSIDIOUS CHAPTER THREE goes? I want my thirty-something bucks back.
However, if you think of it as a standalone film, it actually works (unlike that crap line they kept dropping about POLTERGEIST (2015) able to stand alone if it wasn’t the same title as the original (which I still don’t believe, that movie was just terrible on all levels.
So, if you’ve seen the first two installments, watch with caution, it doesn’t cheapen the other two, but you need to set your bar low. If you’ve never seen an INSIDIOUS movie, start with INSIDIOUS CHAPTER THREE, as it is an origin story, than watch INSIDIOUS, followed by INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 2.