The first two Insidious movies were effective ghost stories with crummy final acts that devolved into pantomime horror. The acting was usually very flat, and the shadowy color palette and swift photography couldn’t fully make up for it. Recently named the Godmother of Horror, Lin Shaye plays a kickass psychic named Elise who can communicate with the horrors we can’t see. She’s back again, this time with a new sentimental story about her deceased husband as a contribution to the theme of losing a loved one. The Brenner family seek her help, after first trying a pair of phony internet bloggers who wear cardigans with Casper the Ghost patches, claim to fully “clean” haunted houses, and provide most if not all of the comic relief of this film. There’s a lot of classic horror tropes initially, with characters looking under the bed or ghosts appearing behind curtains, as the series often likes to pay its dues to the genre. The writing is still piss-poor and the acting mostly unconvincing, but the arm hair-raising chill of something about to pop up at any moment still made me wince and close my eyes a couple times at the beginning.
The Insidious series has caused me to feel utter discomfort during every minute of it’s running time; even the conversations between characters put me on edge after this iconic pop-up from the first movie. I was relieved to find the same uncomfortable tension in Insidious 3 after worrying that Whannell would spend his time trying to mimic Wan’s style and subsequently falling flat, but he rarely ventures from the jump-scare to spook his audience. It’s effective in producing screams or nervous laughter, but it’s overdone by the time the movie is halfway over. An instance of body horror crawls through at one point and it’s more of a relief that there’s SOMETHING more inspired trying to scare me. Also brought back to life is The Further, or the realm where all these dead folks keep popping out from. It’s still bland and uninteresting with no reason for me to fear it other than how it looks like a darker Overlook Hotel, but psychic Elise navigates through it with a confidence that’s shakingly admirable.
Insidious: Chapter 3 is much of the same, and it’s like the Saw series in that it probably should’ve ended after the second installment. I hope the series is done at this point because it will give Whannell a chance to start something new instead of recreate what he’s already done twice. I’m glad the Insidious franchise exists because it brought public attention back to the haunted house genre, but it’s time we put it to rest. And not try to speak to it while it’s dead or something.