by Hiko Mitsuzuka (@TheFirstEcho)
The third time's the charm, er chill, in the latest entry of the Insidious franchise.
After a disappointing second chapter of writer-director Leigh Whannell's supernatural saga, fans may be reluctant to take another spooky journey through The Further, this time with a new cast of characters and a new sinister demon. But fortunately, this one's a prequel, a story about a luckless teen (Stefanie Scott) who tries to contact her dead mother, only to end up stirring a few evil spirits that wreak havoc on her life. (Silly girl.)
But the film is just as much about her as it is about the franchise's plucky heroine, Elise Rainier (the fun-to-watch Lin Shaye). Insidious: Chapter 3 is her origin story, a glimpse into the medium's past and her first encounter with the nerdy ghost-hunting duo, Tucker and Specs (Angus Sampson and Whannell - seriously, someone get them their own series).
Whereas Chapter 2 floundered with its unnecessary continuation of the Lambert family saga, Chapter 3 starts out feeling fresh, wasting no time setting up its tense, atmospheric world. And it never lets go from there. This third entry packs a punch with its extremely eerie set-ups and unapologetic jump-scares. (The minimal use of any music or score definitely helps here.)
If you ask me, exploring Elise's personal history is what this franchise needed. While some horror series run the risk of neutering themselves by delving too deep into a villain's backstory, this one flourishes by giving us more of a character we love to root for. And we certainly do, especially during a climactic showdown with a familiar-looking, cross-dressing specter.
Will the chapters stop coming after this satisfying installment? Probably not. But it's nice to see a horror franchise that is quickly learning its lessons before it, like its characters, dives deeper into more darkness.