A.C. at the Movies…


Insidious: Chapter Three

One of my favorite modern horror franchises is Insidious.  I didn’t love the first film, but it had some unique and interesting elements that set it apart from other horror films.  Insidious 2 was a great horror film that continued the story of the original and continued to get more innovative and interesting.  Insidious 3 departs from the family that was featured in the first two films, instead focusing on a supporting character as she tries to help a family in need a few years prior to the first two films.  This new focus really hurts the movie, removing some of the unique aspects of the franchise and drastically lowering the stakes of the film.
Let me explain.  The big focus in this film is on psychic Elise, the old woman who helped the haunted family in the first two Insidious films.  This time, Elise is struggling with her own demons as she tries to help a teenager that’s being haunted by a dark entity.
Here’s the problem.  The whole movie surrounds Elise being in danger and fearing for her life.  Well, sorry to break it to you Insidious franchise, but you already very clearly and absolutely spelled out Elise’s fate in the first two Insidious films.  There’s zero doubt about her ability to overcome the dark creature in Insidious 3 because this is a prequel, and the filmmakers have already shown us what happens to Elise.  So when Elise is frightened for her life, unsure if she can overcome the dark beings in the film, fans of the franchise are left bored.  We know she overcomes, so why worry about the perceived threat in this prequel?
Removing the stakes from the film takes all the wind out of its sails.  The horror genre is notorious for killing characters and delivering unhappy endings.  Knowing for certain the outcome before the movie even starts strips Insidious 3 of most of its power.  It’s not just low stakes storytelling, it’s no stakes storytelling.
Another issue is the lack of the family from the first film.  The ability some of those characters had to dream walk into the land of the dead is one of the things that makes Insidious so unique.  Removing that aspect of the movie lowers the quality quite a bit, making Insidious 3 far more generic than the first two films in the franchise.
For a generic horror movie, Insidious 3 is pretty decent.  It delivers some good chills and creepy moments, especially early on.  It reveals the ultimate bad guy far too early, doing away with the creepiness far sooner than it needed to.  There are some huge jump scares in the film, though, probably too many.  Some of them are very effective, but the over reliance on them just shows that the movie is lacking in creative ways to scare the audience.
Despite its faults, I still enjoyed Insidious: Chapter 3.  It’s far weaker than the second film, but still keeps enough of the franchise’s atmosphere to deliver some decent scares.  The movie feels like a great mixture of old horror and new, something I really enjoy.  I don’t think it’s remotely worth a trip to the theater to see, but it will work well as a rental in a few months time.

This movie is rated PG-13 for violence, frightening images, some language and thematic elements.