It’s a guarantee these days that if a new and original horror movie makes more money than it was made for then it spawns a seemingly never ending series of sequels.
The most notable victim of this parasitic Hollywood trend is Saw and most recently, Paranormal Activity. Although they bring in the crowd, they don’t always please the critics or even worse, the fans.
Writer, and now director, Leigh Whannell was ready having just stepped off of a flight to introduce the film to us and straight away he tackled the low expectations that I imagine most of us were feeling especially considering how lacklustre the second instalment of the series was. Whannell went on saying that like The Godfather, part 3 of most film series tend to fall flat, so to avoid this potential pitfall he’s taken things back to their terrifying beginnings.
Instead of continuing the story established in the first two films, Whannell takes us back for an origin story of the psychic Elise Rainer, reprised by the great Lin Shaye. Way before the Lambeth hauntings we meet Elise tentatively opening the door to a young girl named Quinn Brenner, played by Stephanie Scott. Quinn has been trying to reach her deceased mother and has come to Elise for help, however Elise is reluctant to help having been marked by a demon. Although Quinn thinks she’s been reaching out to her mother, she has of course been tagged by something much more… Insidious. After a cautious conversation, Elise warns Quinn to be careful but of course, it’s too late. After an accident leaves Quinn with a broken leg, she’s left bed ridden and confined to her room to experience, helplessly, the horrors lurking from within the ‘Further.’
The family bonds are different this time with the Patrick Wilson role played by Dermot Mulroney, a dad facing the trials of bringing up a teenage girl and her younger brother. His hapless role doesn’t stand up next to Wilson but thanks to Whannells script he doesn’t completely become a two dimensional character, especially when the supernatural elements kick in. He is the first one to make the connection between the strange things that start occurring and unlike other horror films, he’s more willing to believe his daughter.
When we move into the more atmospheric beats of the film, I became more aware that Wan wasn’t in the directors chair this time.
In the original, Wan created perfectly timed tension that payed off with a unique and truly horrifying scare, a fearsome, farcical visual that genuinely made you jump out of your seat. However, Whannell relies too heavily on the soundtrack, using the cues of screeching chords to create cheap jump scares. Even his vision of the exciting and interesting, oozing-with-potential ‘Further’ seem humdrum. Whannell’s ‘Further’ seems far less imaginative than in the previous entires, it’s as if he’s just thrown some shadows down the hallway of the hotel he was staying in and took any remaining saturation out during post.
Still, this doesn’t stop you from getting drawn in during these spooky and suspenseful moments but unlike its predecessors, this chapter doesn’t do enough to find a soft spot and burrow under your skin. Even during its apparently now customary séance finale it seems that any original idea Whannell had, he just bailed on and instead decided to play it safe and follow in the footsteps of Wan. It’s one thing to remain faithful to an already established vision but to just essentially reproduce it seems lazy. This has unfortunately created an ending that leaves you wondering why we weren’t moving forward with the mythology and of course, why didn’t we get to see more of the terrifyingly terrific Red-Faced Man?
Remembering though that this instalment is a prequel, it serves it’s purpose at establishing Elise’s backstory and how she formed her professional partnership with the ghost-busting comic duo, Specs (Whannell) and Tucker (Sampson) but the film never really adds anything majorly important to the series mythology, making this chapter feel more like a half baked and prolonged prologue for something bigger to come.
But will we still be interested in what’s going on in the ‘Further’ when Chapter 4 inevitably hits the cinema? Certainly not if they carry on sticking with this current formula.