I quite liked James Wan's original INSIDIOUS. As for the sequel? I thought it was quite well-made but almost completely redundant. I did note at the time, however, that the fadeout opened the door for the series to continue in a fresher direction and that I wouldn't necessarily be averse to a third installment.
Unfortunately, INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 3 is a step in the wrong direction--in more ways than one.
As you no doubt know by now, this (despite the title) is actually a prequel which gives us more backstory on the sensitive Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) and how she got back into the business after swearing off of it. In other words (provided you saw the first two, of course), you already know how things turned out for her and you know she'll be alive and kicking at the end of THIS movie no matter how much danger she faces in the process. As for the charge she's protecting in this one? Well, if this exploit had ended in devastating, catastrophic failure, does anybody think she'd would have been encouraged to continue? Exit suspense.
Still and all... young Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott) seeks out the "retired" Elise because she's eager to contact the spirit of her deceased and much-missed mother. Elise properly warns Quinn that if she calls to even ONE departed soul, ALL of them can hear her. So the frustrated aspiring actress who wants nothing more than to move across the country and get away from her sourpuss father (Dermot Mulroney) and the chore of taking care of her little brother returns to her miserable existence... but it's too late to accept her fate as such--bad things start happening and Elise is soon off to the rescue. And somewhere in the last half of the movie we meet the younger selves of the spook-buster team of Specs and Tucker (Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson), and they get out their ghost-detector gear, and (while it's not really this movie's fault) we get yet another rehash of what we were already sick and tired of in the lackluster POLTERGEIST remake we just endured.
Writer Whannell takes the director's chair himself for this installment, and to his credit, he works quite well with his cast. Shaye remains the feisty standout (though Whannell and Sampson rather unfairly claim higher billing in the titles, she's unquestionably the lead character). Scott is appealing and effective as the tormented daughter, and there are plenty of sequences in which various characters try to come to terms with grief and loss, but I never could warm to Mulroney this time out. But how are the SCARES?
The main spectre (besides the old lady that keeps warning Elise that one day she's gonna "get" her) is an ill-defined "Man Who Can't Breathe" who is apparently fond of wading in oil slicks and leaving slimy footprints everywhere he goes. Now here's one for you... in an attempt to unsettle the viewer, we see that the footprints have crossed the floor and approached a high window... oh, but then you see footprints on the section of wall leading up TO the window, as if he were walking on the WALL (ooh, scary)... except then he was supposed to have hurled himself THROUGH the window. Now, I don't know about you, but even if I COULD walk on the walls, I very much doubt I would have DONE so if my intention were merely to throw myself through a window that was already directly in front of me. Try that sometime. (And there's the OTHER "step in the wrong direction" I alluded to earlier, so there you go.) Okay. One or two of the "jump" scares would have worked pretty well if they hadn't shown them a hundred times in the trailers and TV spots already (there's an article I keep meaning to write).
The biggest disappointment here is the depiction of "The Further" (the netherworld of the deceased into which the characters frequently travel). I truly appreciated the low budget, Bava-esque creepiness of the Further in the original installment (the sequel was just more of the same but still attractive). But the prequel not only fails to add anything new--it even subtracts from what went before, essentially giving us the same faded blue hallway with the bright red elevator doors waiting at the end. Yes, elevators were an Argento hallmark and he used them ingeniously in movie after movie, but nobody actually DOES anything with the elevators here. Similarly, we think we're in for an INFERNO tribute when we close in on the ornate grating leading to the ventilation system (the "crazy cat lady" neighbor even TELLS us that the nasty spirit is waiting in the vents), but it's just like the elevators. Nobody actually takes advantage of the vents and DOES something with them. Look--elevator! Look--vent shaft! It's not ENOUGH. Especially after what SAW inheritors Melton and Dunstan did with the truly berserk Eye-Tye tribute THE COLLECTION. A set-up like that of INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 3 screams for something that isn't shackled by a mandatory PG-13. Sorry.
Points for the ladies--but precious little else.
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