Eerie and Suspenseful, but Misses the Mark
If two basic thematic conflicts have ever existed in the horror film genre, they have been the conflict of Man vs. Man and that Man vs. the Supernatural. In the former, we see the stereotypical serial killer that just can’t die no matter how may time he’s done away with, and in the latter, we have ghost stories and tales of possession – and Hollywood has maxed out on them both. We’ve grown tired of the mask-wearing serial killers, and we’ve grown weary of the courtroom dramas based on alleged possessions. Sometimes, we want to be reminded of things that are Other-Than us that can’t be so easily dismissed; that is, we occasionally want stories that explore material which we normally shy away from. We want to be scared, and the wizards of Tinseltown have been twiddling their thumbs on old ideas.
Such was the case until 2010 upon the release of the first Insidious, a film that innovatively blended the two aforementioned conflicts along with creative elements of design and style regarding set work and camera work. The stakes were higher in 2013’s Insidious: Chapter 2, a film which did not lack anything technical and thematic from the first film and actually enhanced the story of its predecessor. The two films, then, while powerful on their own, became a powerhouse combo together.
So when I first heard of an Insidious: Chapter 3 that would be covering the origins of my favorite character, I was ecstatic. I had been enchanted by Lin Shaye’s performance as psychic Elise Rainier in the first two films, and when I learned that this new third film would bolster her character, I felt like cinematic justice was being served. This third film would be the ultimate prequel of any other horror movie series that came before – at least, that’s what I was hoping for.
Unfortunately, that hope was quenched when Insidious: Chapter 3 missed its mark. It is a film enjoyable enough on its own but pales in comparison to episodes before it.
Don’t get me wrong: the film is still top-notch in my book. Production value, though stylistically minimalist, was commandingly effective. Because of its simplicity, it forced the actors to carry the film, and none of the players in the cast disappoint. The film’s treatment of thematic material is superb: every character has lost someone, and every character deals with that loss in some way; few truer attributes have haunted humans.
The story starts with the mournful Quinn (played by Stefanie Scott) seeking out the help of the retired Elise who has sworn she would never use her abilities again (for fear of her own life, but that’s a different story). Quinn is trying to reach out to her deceased mother and even confesses to attempting to do so by herself. Elise laments this and simultaneously offers her sage advice: “If you call out to one of the dead, all of them can hear you.” From there…well…no spoilers, but if you’re familiar with the series, you can figure it out.
The only problem is in introducing characters outside of the original cast because it diverts attention away from those with whom I – as an audience member and lover of the first two films – already had a connection. I wanted to learn more about Elise, and that chance was ruined by inviting these other characters and other plots into the fold.
If you haven’t seen the first two films, do not fret: this film still works as a grade-A supernatural thriller with maybe a little more jump scares than suspenseful sequences. If you have seen the first films, though, I would still suggest watching this one if only for a reason to cleanse your palate with the first two films afterward.
The Christian Angle: Life After Death…right?
The driving theme of Insidious: Chapter 3 is coping with the loss of a loved one, and many people within and without the film have tried to cope with that loss via communication with the dead. It’s a practice that’s been around for as long as people have been dying and will probably continue to be around until God reveals Himself fully to us and lifts the veil. Until then, because “all have sinned” and “the wages of sin is death,” friends and family members will still pass on from this life, and we will grieve for them.
Now, I’m not here to either prove or disprove ghosts or the paranormal or the supernatural, but I do find it fascinating that God tells us not to mess around with such things (after all, why would He tell us not to involve ourselves in something if that something weren’t real in the first place?). My biggest point, though: since Jesus himself said that he was going to prepare a place of rest for us, who am I to disturb that rest for anyone who has entered that paradise before me? Sounds kinda selfish, and that’s not obeying God.