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Movie Review: Insidious: Chapter 3 Supplies Summer Chills

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“In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! we are not bound for ever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory.”  ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

After the recent passing of her mother, Quinn Brenner has been trying to reach her on the other side…but to no avail. Certain that her mother is trying to tell her something she visits a gifted psychic named Elise Rainer, in hopes that she can help her speak to her mother. Elise has not worked as a medium for some time due to the personal danger she has faced. Despite the risk, she reluctantly agrees to help Quinn try to make contact. Instead, Elise receives a grim warning from a malevolent entity, that she’s all too familiar with. Elise ends the session and vehemently cautions Quinn not to continue with any further attempts at contacting the spirit of her departed mother.

Following the reading, Quinn begins hearing strange noises and experiencing bizarre occurrences. The next day during at an audition, for a drama school she wishes to attend, Quinn sees a person she doesn’t know waving to her from offstage. She proceeds with her audition but has difficulty remembering her intended monologue. Later that night Quinn sits outside venting to her best friend, about how she screwed up her audition and likely her chance to escape her home life. When their conversation ends they decide it’s time to return home. While crossing the street, Quinn sees what looks like the person who was waving at her in the theater. This distracts Quinn, who is blindsided and severely injured by an oncoming car.

With both legs severely broken, Quinn is now on bed rest, and can only get around by wheelchair until her legs are completely healed. Armed only with a little bell to beckon her father, Sean Brenner, she must become used to life as a relative shut in for the time being. Trapped within the confines of her bedroom, Quinn begins to experience paranormal occurrences with increasing frequency. Ultimately the entity that is menacing her, becomes aggressive and violent. So much so that the entity actually throws Quinn out of bed and further injures her.

As he continues to see his daughter deviled by something he doesn’t understand, Sean seeks out Elise to see if she will change her mind  and lend her assistance with Quinn’s dire situation. Against her better judgment, Elise agrees to help. She travels into “The Further” to see if she can find the spirit at the root of Quinn’s problems, and quickly comes face to face with the demon who had previously threatened her life. The demon attacks her as is hell-bent on killing her, but Elise returns to the physical realm before it can finish the job. Having just barely survived the encounter, Elise refuses to continue.

At his wit’s end, Sean seeks the help of two paranormal bloggers named Specs and Tucker. They gear up and prepare to deal with the problematic entity, only to be plunged headlong into terrifying fracas the likes of which none of them could have expected. All seems hopeless until Elise returns with a renewed sense of strength and purpose. Will Elise rescue Quinn from her demon tormentor, or will they both perish in the further.

This movie serves as a prequel to the previous two Insidious movies, occurring before the Lambert family haunting took place. Leigh Wannell, who has been responsible for scripting all three installments, has crafted another good story, full of genuine scares and real human drama. The greatest underlying theme of the film is the different ways by which people try to cope with the loss of a loved one, giving it a real heartfelt and genuinely human element. He does a good job creating characters with whom the audience can connect, which makes the story more horrifying when these characters are placed in genuine peril.

This movie marks Whanell’s directorial debut, and for his first time behind the camera he delivers an impressive end product. Despite the fact that it’s part of a series, this film is strong enough to stand on its own. His involvement with the first two films, as an actor and screenwriter, makes him familiar enough with the visual style to keep it consistent. And being that the horror is chilling and atmospheric without the need of fancy special effects, is a testament to his abilities as the writer and director on this film. Any filmmaker can use muted colors, low-key lighting, creeping wide shots and fast frantic cuts in an attempt to create the proper horror atmosphere, but it’s the story and the characters that ultimately make these elements work.

The standard horror fare “jump scare” is a kind of cheap and common element used in most horror films to give the audience a quick jolt. And while in this film there are some of those,  Whanell also sustained and prolonged many of the scarier moments to make viewers squirm in their seats. The intensity of some scenes comes from the incredibly aggressive and violent behavior the entities focus on Quinn and Elise, respectively. What made the attacks on Quinn particularly terrifying to witness, is her emotional and physical vulnerability, which is compounded by the absolute helplessness her father experiences as she is continually tormented.

Stefanie Scott, in the role of Quinn Brenner, does not just play another bratty horror movie teenager. She convincingly displays the lingering pain of somebody who has suffered a tragic loss, while also exhibiting frustration as if she’s suffering alone. Scott brings a real sense of purity to the character that makes her more susceptible to the intentions of the malevolent entity.

Dermot Mulroney, in the role of Sean Brenner, truly shows a man who is suffering in silence and masking his own pain with a stoic facade, as he tries hard to hold everything together the sake of his children. This eventually gives way to fear and desperation as he does whatever he can to help his daughter.

Leigh Whanell as Specs and Angus Sampson as Tucker, are supposed “paranormal experts” and bloggers, who will later team up with Elise in their shared paranormal endeavors. Their cocky yet rather inept antics provide some much-needed comic relief at a time when tensions are at their highest. They have a good chemistry, that comes across kind of like a bratty sibling rivalry at times.

Of course I can’t say enough about Lin Shaye, in the role of Elise Rainer. She is a sweet, caring, and motherly figure that you cannot help but root for. But when things become tense and horrifying, you also can’t help but feel genuine concern for her either. She really gets to shine in this movie and be a little bit of a bad-ass also. Shaye really gets a chance to own her character this time, as she develops more of Elise’s back story.

Insidious: Chapter 3 continues the trend of horror movies that prove that a well written story with good characters, can be genuinely creepy and deliver real, honest scares without the need of high-tech flashy effects. This is a refreshing development, given the fact that we live in a world where so many films depend so much, on all manner of computer generated effects to help manifest cinematic thrills.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com

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