The afternoon before I went to the cinema to watch the third instalment in the Insidious franchise, I heard a term that summarises the current crop of horror movies that are hitting our cinemas: Cattle-prod horror. It refers to the constant jump-scares that horror movies have decided makes their movie “scary” (like a sudden jolt from a cattle-prod). It is something that begins to become tiresome and boring – watching a “victim” walk, carefully and fearfully down a hall, music slowly softening until *bang* the volume is cranked up and you are “scared” to death! Except it isn’t fear – its shock and that isn’t horror.
Horror stays with you. It is creepy and makes shivers run up your spine. It gives you nightmares due to the shocking scenes or the effective story that makes you wonder “what if?” The first Insidious had this, with the cattle-prod moments being used sparsely (with one notable scene scaring most people out of their seats). The second one went down the cattle-prod route and lost the great story elements that made the series more unique. The third is a solid mix of the two.
Chapter 3 links with the first two movies but isn’t a follow-on. This is a seemingly unnecessary sequel. It didn’t feel like a story had to be told before the events of the first film. There are some clever links but the major, joining element is actually the greatest character in the whole series: Elise Rainer. The psychic, who can contact the dead and enter “The Further,” is the real hero of the whole franchise and due to events in the first chapter, you can see Insidious 3 as an attempt to rectify past mistakes.
This isn’t a complaint though because Elise Rainer, played by Lin Raye, is both sweet and kick-ass, all at the same time. She sells the horror and the scares, better than anyone else in the whole movie (including the teenage girl at the centre of the tale). Raye plays the part both with calm seriousness but with a tongue firmly in cheek, surely aware that she will never be offered a part like this ever again!
Raye’s character also helps increase the overall feeling of horror in the movie. For big parts of the film, there isn’t much we haven’t seen before, in past instalments of this franchise and many others, but the really s moments are done effectively. Elise Rainer is the only person who can enter “The Further,” the one aspect of the franchise that makes it different and original to other horror movies around. This is where you get imagery and elements designed to scare you; none more so than the central demon to the whole story.
More than the red faced-demon from Chapter 1 and the Black Widow from Chapter 2 – in this instalment we get “the man who can’t breathe.” He is scary on all accounts, from the sound he makes, the bloodied footprints he leaves and the actual look he has – more frightening than both other demons we have seen so far. This is where Chapter 3 begins to reflect the magic of the first movie in the franchise. Add truly creepy moments; the “half-girl” crawling towards the screen or a pretty nasty way to remove casts with two broken legs, and you have a horror movie that will stay with you when the credits have rolled.
The positive elements do make the more generic aspects stand-out like a sore thumb though. The rest of the characters are generic and have been used in many other horror movie you have seen in the last five years. There are cattle-prod moments throughout the movie, to the usual exhausting and tedious quantity and the story, although original in places, just isn’t as creative as it should be.
Overall, Insidious: Chapter 3 is a step in the right direction for the franchise. It has correctly placed Lin Raye’s Elise Rainer at the centre of the movie and focused the events around her. It also adds more to the horror with a great demon and some very shocking, horrific moments. Unfortunately it still relies on the usual horror tropes, from cattle-prod jump scares to terrified, teenage damsel in distress.
Rating – 3.5
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)