Leigh Whannell, writer of previous installments, Saw 1-3, Dead Silence, and oft actor, makes his directorial debut here and I was curious to see what kind of things he learned working with modern horror master, James Wan (director of the previous films). This was a good practice session for Whannell, but he needs a lot more fine tuning before he’s ready to tackle another.
As for the film itself, let’s start with what I liked. If you look at it as a vehicle for underrated character actor, Lin Shaye, then it works well in a few ways. Her character (Elise Rainier) is easily the best and most likable part of the whole movie. She really shines, and if the series continues, the hope would be that she is the main focus. I would be completely cool with another film about her demon thwarting adventures; that would give Whannell another chance to sharpen his tools, as well.
In the beginning, I was interested in where the film was taking me. While a story about a teenage girl trying to connect with her dead mother, only to become demon fodder isn’t exactly the greatest story ever told, it works well enough to hold interest. I was genuinely creeped out by the introduction of the main antagonist of the film, who appears as a shadow waving in the distance of a dark theatre. Aside from that, there were very few genuine scares to be had.
While the first two films in this series are notable for their jump scares, in this case, I knew what to expect basically every time. The few red herrings there were rarely worked. The horror here is pretty well all loud noises and things popping out to say: BOO. They are cheap pops that would never work on a seasoned horror fan.
As far as sequels go, this is safe as they come: it takes no risks whatsoever and makes no attempt to grow in any way. I mean, how many times do we have to see Lin Shaye with the “Bride in Black’s” hands around her neck? It’s at least two or three different times in this movie alone. I know her goal is to murder the psychic, but doesn’t she have any other method of execution?
Chapter 3 relies too much on familiarity, even going back to the Further version of the Lambert house and using a lot of the same spooky charmers from the previous installments. That’s not what Insidious should be. Not that I was expecting Whannel to be an auteur out of the gate, but his notes just fall flat.
As said before, the introduction of the main antagonist was one of the only scares to be had because after we get a good look at him, he continues to pop out of the closet screaming at us over and over and over again. He is completely overexposed. I lost total interest in him halfway through the film. The concept of “The Man Who Cannot Breathe,” isn’t exactly the most horrifying thing in the world either: he gets beaten up by Lin Shaye at one point.
Insidious has gotten stale though I’m sure the franchise will be around until they’ve scrapped everything good out of it. Which is fine: all good things, right? My ticket was $8.50, and it would have been much smarter to wait for it to come to Netflix.