I consider myself pretty thick skinned when it comes to horror movies. I was unscathed by The Conjuring (as much as I actually enjoyed it), I sat bored and frustrated through Annabelle, I never found interest in any of the 17 Paranormal Activity movies, I laughed my way through Unfriended even Insidious 1 and 2 didn’t really frighten me at all. So, for one reason or another I decided to check out Insidious: Chapter 3. It was a matinee, I had nothing better to do, and I’ve been looking for something to scratch that horror itch. Well, it did. Maybe a little too well, in fact.
As I sit here, at almost 8 o clock, over an hour after leaving the theater, sitting here writing on my laptop, I’m surprised the pit in my stomach that I got from watching Insidious is still stubbornly refusing to go anywhere. Yes, I actually was fairly scared by Insidious 3. Before you ask, yes, there are a lot of jumpscares. However, they typically didn’t feel cheap as I think many do. It reminds me of forcing a kid to eat his vegetables before they can have desert. In this case, vegetables is well done suspense and desert is a jumpscare. However I can’t stand it when movies have the “false scare”, as in how most horror characters are only capable of getting someones attention by creeping up behind them and grabbing their shoulder, typically accompanied by a noise that sounds like a conductor tripped and fell on his piano shortly thereafter. No, Insidious actually has some really well pulled off suspense scenes, several of which don’t even lead to jumpscares. How often is that?
Now, as a movie, Insidious is lacking in some aspects. The characters aren’t all that great, there’s a good bit of expository dialogue and generally it more serves as a segway from scary scene to scary scene. But there were some moments that genuinely hit me emotionally. Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil any of them but some of the lines actually really got to me. The way the film looks, is, as you might expect, similar to 1 and 2 though I thought the scenes in “The Further” were more cinematic looking, somehow. Again, you won’t watch this movie expecting to remember it in a week. You see it for the scares, and that’s where it makes up for it.
I thought the use of having the main character become crippled was brilliant. Just having something like her wheelchair being 10 feet away was far scarier than I would’ve anticipated, because it added this great layer of helplessness to an already pretty unsettling concept. It manages to avoid most of the haunted house movie cliches (such as being set in an apartment, for example) but still manages to embrace some of them (which I won’t get into for spoiler reasons) Also, the two paranormal investigators show up and add some comic relief at about the most inappropriate time of the film. It almost happens at the climax of suspense, and it really feels like it brought the movie down a lot.
Before they show up, however, it certainly lives up to being “the darkest chapter” as the posters proudly proclaim. It doesn’t feel as whimsical or semi lighthearted as the others. There’s some downright disturbing stuff in here that really pushes the limits of PG-13 and makes the first two seem much more tame in comparison. Subtlety is the key to this, and some scenes manage to pull this off really well, even when they did lead to a jumpscare. Lin Shaye is also the standout performance, with some really great moments and character development that really show how talented of an actress she is. Of course there’s only about 4 characters that get more than a few minutes of screentime and she really stood out as the best.
Overall, Insidious 3 had some fairly effective scares, but little else. It is a slight step up from the first two in both quality and disturbing content, but it won’t really appeal to anyone outside of the fanbase for films of this caliber. There certainly are some cheap jump scares, but if you’re looking for a decent scary summertime flick to see in a crowd on opening weekend, Insidious fits the bill.