Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Insidious: Chapter 3

1.5/4

Starring: Stefanie Scott, Dermot Mulroney, Lin Shaye, Tate Berney, Hayley Kiyoko

Rated PG-13 for Violence, Frightening Images, Some Language and Thematic Elements

The good news about the prequel to the 2010 shocker (that made my Top 10 list that year) is that it's better than the second chapter.  The bad news is that the first sequel was a trainwreck, so that statement must be taken as a back-handed compliment.

"Insidious: Chapter 3" is a prequel, although the only difference it really makes is a quick scene at the end and sparing Rose Byrne, Patrick Wilson, Barbara Hershey and most of the rest of the cast from the indignity of appearing in this blatant cash grab.  Apart from the two ghost hunters played by Leigh Whannel (who wrote and directed this installment) and Angus Sampson, the only returning character is Lin Shaye, who appears bored for the most part.

Quinn Brenner (Scott) lost her mother to breast cancer a year and a half ago.  But she wants to communicate with her, which leads her to Elise (Shaye), a psychic.  After initially declining, Elise agrees to help the girl, but that only leads to bad experiences for both of them: Quinn is being threatened by some very violent demons and Elise is having a run-in with a demon from her past that has it in for her.  Quinn's father Sean (Mulroney) and brother Alex (Berney) are helpless, so Elise will have to decide how much she is willing to risk to help the poor girl.

Horror movies are rarely known for good acting, and "Insidious: Chapter 3" is no exception.  In fact, I will claim that the film is dealt a huge blow by the flat performance of Stefanie Scott.  She's one of those generically cute tween starlets that appears with regularity on the Disney channel and teen soap operas.  Which is to say, she looks appealing, but her acting abilities only go so far as being able to read the script.  Her more famous co-star, Dermot Mulroney, isn't much better.  He doesn't have a lot of range, but the charm he had in "My Best Friend's Wedding" and "Copycat" doesn't show up here.  Instead, he does a good job of blending in with the furniture.

This is the directorial debut of Leigh Whannell, who has written all of the horror movies directed by his long time friend and collaborator James Wan.  Wan didn't return to direct this sequel because he had signed on to make "Furious 7," although he does have a cameo.  Although the two have worked together for nearly 15 years, Whannell has inherited little of Wan's ability to scare the living hell out of an audience.  He can create solid shocks, but can't sustain the suspense.  What's curious is that he concentrates on the grief of the two characters (Quinn and Elise) for much of the running time.  I guess the intent is to develop them more, but the script and Scott's acting are so weak that it ends up being a waste of time.

Better save your gas and watch "The Innkeepers" and wait for "Jurassic World."

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