By Michael Arruda
In the INSIDIOUS movies, the demon world where much of the action takes place is known as “the Further.” This name is apropos, because with INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3 now in theaters, if there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that the series has moved further towards mediocrity.
INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3 is a prequel to the first two INSIDIOUS movies, and as such, it basically tells two stories. The story INSIDIOUS fans are most interested in is the background/origin story of an integral character from the first two movies, clairvoyant and demon hunter Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye), a character who actually died at the end of the first
movie. She appeared in the second movie moving about inside the Further. In INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3, we learn more about how she first started fighting demons.
The second story told in INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3 is the tale of young Quinn (Stefanie Scott) who runs afoul a demon when she tries to contact her deceased mother. It’s this case that brings Elise into contact with the Further and the evil demons that reside there.
INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3 opens as Quinn visits Elise seeking out her help in order to communicate with her deceased mother. Elise at first declines, saying she doesn’t do that kind of work anymore, but she gives in and attempts to reach Elise’s mother. Instead, Elise hears from a demon, a mysterious woman demon who’s been haunting Elise for some time, telling Elise that she is going to kill her.
So, this isn’t the first time that Elise has dealt with demons or the Further, and so the events here aren’t really an “origin” story because Elise has already encountered the demon world.
Against Elise’s advice, Quinn continues to try to contact her mother, and as a result, she attracts the attention of another demon— who knew demons were so active? — known as “The Man Who Can’t Breathe”— who suddenly makes it his mission to haunt and terrorize Quinn and her family.
Eventually, things get so bad that Elise can’t say no any longer, and she takes on the case, setting up the big battle between humans and demons. Hmm. Been there. Done that. And with much more satisfying results in the first INSIDOUS movie.
The first INSIDIOUS (2010) movie is one of my favorite horror movies of the past decade. INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 (2013) wasn’t as good, but it was still mildly entertaining, and it managed to get pretty creative as characters in the sequel went back into events from the first movie giving these scenes added meaning. It was all pretty neat.
Now comes INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3, a prequel that for me, never quite hit its stride. I’m not a big fan of prequels anyway, but that being said, I had an open mind about this one. It just never won me over.
For starters, I thought the new demon story featuring Quinn and her family, mostly her caring dad Sean (Dermot Mulroney) was pretty lame. Quinn has lost her mom recently to cancer, and her dad is struggling to raise her and her younger brother Alex. These scenes offered nothing new, and I was hard pressed to feel for this family when nothing about them was insightful or refreshing.
And while there are some scares here and there, they are nothing like the scares generated in the original INSIDIOUS. That film had its the audience screaming out loud. In INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3, the audience barely made a sound. The scariest scene doesn’t involve a demon at all but an unexpected car accident that provides a quick jolt.
That being said, I do like the way the INSIDIOUS films handle demons and the Further. The world created inside these INSIDIOUS movies is a creative one, and it’s always creepy and eerie. A lot of imagination goes into the demons in these movies, and I appreciate this. I just wish as much imagination went into the human characters in this third installment. Also, the demons have become progressively less frightening with each episode.
As much as I enjoyed the character of Elise Rainier in the first two movies, one of the reasons I enjoyed her so much was that she was a small part of a bigger picture. The main characters in the first two movies were the members of Lambert family. Elise is less effective as a main character. Plus we already know her fate, as she dies at the end of the first movie.
And when Elise finally goes up against the demons, she defeats them too easily. These are demons for crying out loud! To get rid of them, one should have to do more than just give them a good shove and shout “Go away!”
As she was in the first two movies, Lin Shaye is very good as Elise Rainer, the woman who can’t seem to stop tangling with demons. But is Elise a strong enough character to carry a whole movie on her own? I’m not so sure about that.
Stefanie Scott is okay as Quinn Brenner, but I was less impressed with Dermot Mulroney’s performance as Quinn’s dad Sean. I found him whiny and unlikable, and there was something very grating about his performance.
Angus Sampson and Leigh Whannell return as amateur ghost hunters Tucker and Specs, and they once more provide the film’s comic relief. Yet with each successive movie their shtick grows thinner and less funny.
Whannell wrote all three INSIDIOUS movies, and he’s at the helm here for the first time as the director of INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3. I can’t fault his scripts all that much, because to be honest, I like the demon world he has created in this series. But in terms of the whole package, the story told in this third segment was much more mediocre than the ones told in the first two movies.
And I realize the movie is entitled INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3, but do we really want movies to play like chapters in a novel? This approach works with a television series, but not with a movie.
With a TV show, you only have to wait a week for the next episode, or in today’s streaming market, there’s no wait at all. With a movie, you have to wait a much longer time, usually more than a year. So, if you’re stuck watching a mediocre “chapter,” with a television show, it’s on to the next episode and it’s no big deal. You can’t do that with a movie.
Plus, movie tickets cost a decent chunk of change! Do I really want to shell out $11.00 for a ticket and then settle for an average 90 minutes? No way! When I pay for a ticket, I want to see the filmmaker’s best effort. Always. Episodic filmmaking is the wrong way to go. Movies should stand alone, even if they’re part of a series.
Whannell does a decent job at the helm, although I think director James Wan did a better job generating scares in the first two movies.
INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3 benefits from being part of the INSIDIOUS universe. I like the demons and the world they live in, and I like main character Elise Rainer and watching her take on these evil entities, even if I don’t think she’s a strong enough character to carry a movie. But the other story of teen Quinn Brenner and how she runs afoul of a demon and eventually needs Elise’s help, never won me over, mostly because it was a retread of things that have happened before. It’s also not even close to being as scary or as intense as the original film in the series.
INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3 isn’t a bad movie, but it is a mediocre one. The demons in the Further deserve better.