(The gist: I would have loved to see a third chapter of Insidious that flowed as seamless as the first two films. However, Insidious Chapter 3 just does not live up to or mesh perfectly with its predecessors. It is perfectly acceptable as a horror movie but falls far short as part of the Insidious franchise.)
Horror franchises are such fickle beasts. Even with consistent filmmakers for the whole run (rare), there is no guarantee that every member of the family will live up to its siblings. Each installment will either permit you to cling to what you loved in the predecessors or completely ruin something dear to your horror heart.
Insidious Chapter 3 somehow manages to be neither.
I loved Insidious and Insidious Chapter 2. To me, they played like one long, cohesive movie simply cut in half. Then there’s Chapter 3, which seems to stumble into the franchise and be haphazardly shoved between the collection of events from the first two films. The story departs from the Lambert haunting and instead focuses on how Elise assembles with Tucker and Specs to vanquish demons.
This is probably the most superficial complaint, but the timeline of the franchise irks me. I know it is simply the writer in me; however, when I hear the word “chapter” that implies a chronological order. Therefore, I expect films that use that word to have events that occur in order. I realize that chapters are not always chronological in literature (even in my own writing), yet the expectation was there when I watched the Insidious franchise.
I usually enjoy the temporal games played by these particular filmmakers, in the first two Insidious movies and in the Saw franchise. They are generally well crafted and clever and really add dimension to the movies. However, Chapter 3 just seemed shoved among the events of the first two movies. I understand it is supposed to be a prequel for the band of ghost fighters, yet with the way the two preceding movies jump forward and back and interlace around each other, it just feels like Chapter 3 is dropped in there somewhere. It breaks the flow created between the other movies.
Chapter 3 just does not seem to fit with the other two movies. All the elements are there: the malicious spirit, the living victims, the journey into “the further.” The style is similar; watching it is reminiscent of its older siblings. Yet it is just not the same, not congruent enough for it not to feel off. And that feeling is from more than just a new cast of victims.
In all honesty, when watching Chapter 3, it strikes me as the filmmakers really love that concept and that world (or were offered a lot of money) and just wanted to make another film. It feels forced, not like a continuation or addition to the original story but more as a desperate attempt to keep living in the franchise.
All that being said, Chapter 3 is not a bad movie at all. It still managed to creep the hell out of me. I was never unhappy with the filmmaking or the plot. It kept my attention. It succeeds as a horror movie. For me, it just does not succeed as a part of the Insidious franchise.
So Chapter 3 is not horrible; it does not completely destroy the franchise for me. However, it is not wonderful either; it did not allow me to slip seamlessly back into that world and keep the story I loved going. It just is. On its own, Chapter 3 could stand as a legitimate horror movie, yet within its own franchise, it falls extremely short of its older siblings.