The Insidious franchise has always felt a little old-fashioned: from the practical effects, to the unhurried pace, to the utmost reliance on atmosphere, lighting and sound effects. Insidious: Chapter 3 is a new story built as a prequel to the first two installments with previous director James Wan stepping down and actor Leigh Whannell (one of the Spectral Sightings goofballs) taking over the reigns. The heart and soul of the franchise remains mostly intact, but the first time director struggles with a plodding and clumsy execution. Gone are the clever shots and shocks milked to maximum effect, and instead beats last a little too long, the reveals are often mistimed, and the uneven script is left rather exposed.
But then the most wonderful thing happens: actress Lin Shaye shows up and saves the film with a harrowing and resonant performance. Shaye plays Elise Rainier who is a psychic force to be reckoned with in the subsequent films, but here we see her brittle and defeated start in this ghost busting business. She is an incredible character actor who brings gravitas to proceedings and elevates everyone around her. The marketing may not reveal it, but this is her story – not the young girl featured on the poster and trailer.
Ultimately, this movie will not win over many new viewers and definitely geared to the hardcore fans of the franchise and only marginally recommended. As sequels go, it does take some risks in the storytelling, reveals more about the character that holds this franchise together, has some unexpected humor, and sets up what could be a very unorthodox fourth chapter.