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June 7, 2015

Insidious: Chapter 3

by Franz Patrick

Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)
★★★ / ★★★★

“When you call out to the dead, all of them can you hear you,” forewarns Elise (Lin Shaye), a woman with a special ability to communicate with the dead, to Quinn (Stefanie Scott), a high school student who believes that she is being visited by her dead mother. But Quinn neglects to tell the medium a critical piece of information: Prior to her visit, she had tried to communicate with her mother’s spirit before. And unbeknownst to Quinn, something else was listening and has since been attached itself to her.

I despised “Insidious: Chapter 2” so much that I still feel the anger, betrayal, and frustration since I saw it. A breath of fresh air then is “Insidious: Chapter 3,” written and directed by Leigh Whannell, because the story involves a whole new family in an entirely different home. This time, on a high-rise apartment in the middle of the city. The legendary Shaye is back, clearly the best performer and presence in the picture.

Although the camera spends most of its time on Quinn, the central protagonist is clearly Elise. This is her story and the girl’s haunting serves as a conduit to tell the old woman’s struggle with having to suppress her gift. This sequel should have been the one to have followed the first film because Elise is arguably the most compelling character from this universe of dreams, night terrors, and The Further.

It exhibits a patience similar to many effective horror films. Although there are plenty of jump scares, they work because the screenplay understands Alfred Hitchcock’s quote: There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it. We anticipate how the girl would react once she comes across the entity aptly named The Man Who Can’t Breathe (Michael Reid MacKay), especially in instances where she is bed-ridden, literally unable to move her legs and neck. It is one thing when one encounters a scary apparition, but it is entirely another challenge when one is unable to run away. What does one do then?

The picture might have been stronger if we had gotten to know Quinn’s family (Dermot Mulroney, Tate Berney) a bit more. What makes the original so chilling is that we get ample of time to observe how the family reacts to the increasingly horrifying happenings around the house. Here, the family members are one-dimensional: the father is struggling with keeping the children in check while the younger brother watches paranormal reality shows as a hobby. Quinn’s relationship with them commands no emotional resonance.

There are a few images I will remember from the movie. One involves an apparition slowly waving to Quinn before it is her turn to audition for the play. Another is when Elise follows a set of footprints down a dark basement—one she has kept locked since the last time she contacted the dead. Shots of a faceless girl without lower legs are also a bit alarming.

“Insidious: Chapter 3” is at its best during the quiet moments when the camera is transfixed on the clairvoyant’s face. Shaye has a way of drawing us into this world and within her character’s supernatural experiences. When she speaks, we get the feeling that our grandmother is telling us a terrifying bedtime story. But the magic is also in the eyes: When Elise refers to the past or talks about a dark place where some of the dead reside, there are tears welling up in her eyes. There is intrigue because we get the impression that she is not telling us everything—that the whole story is perhaps so terrible, it is not to be believed.


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