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'Insidious: Chapter 3' thankfully returns to horror basics

insidious 3.jpg

"Insidious 3" (2015) - “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” - Confucius. Well, I do know if one can accurately describe life in 2015 as simple - with competing pressures from career, family, friends, the race to keep up with the Joneses, and the ever-present social media spotlight - but yes, Confucius is basically correct. I feel “Insidious: Chapter 2” fell into this “complicated” trap.

The first “Insidious” picture, a 2010 horror hit, featured good old-fashioned scares as a sinister entity terrorized an unsuspecting family.

Thankfully, a fearless psychic (Lin Shaye) and her pair of assistants came to the family’s aid, but the movie ended with a cliffhanger. Most unfortunately, Chapter 2 seemed to drag on forever.

The film tried too hard to delve into the “Insidious” backstory, and in the process lost its footing.

Too many ideas and unnecessary plot points complicated the narrative, and this lack of cohesion left this viewer bored and wishing for the end credits. To my great surprise, “Insidious: Chapter 3” took a different approach and a refreshing and simpler one.

The story takes place prior to the first film and planks the main protagonist - the familiar and welcomed Elise (Shaye) - in a battle with a frightening entity, and the soul of an innocent teenager (Stefanie Scott) hangs in the balance.

After Quinn (Scott) suffers a near death experience, a grey-colored man - seemingly covered in waxy glaze of wet sunblock - with an oxygen mask repeatedly bullies Quinn (Scott) when she is most vulnerable.

For Quinn, this basically is all the time. Writer/director Leigh Whannell delivers nearly all of the sequences in close quarters while placing the terror with the “comfort” of the her living space.

Of course, we have seen haunted house tales orchestrated countless times, but Whannell does an excellent job of playing with shadows, darkness and eerie light (even Elise's lantern - used for searching out evil spirits - is infinitely creepy).

In several scenes there is literally no sound coming from the theatre speakers as Quinn cautiously looks in darkness and hopes her fears are imagined.

They are not. Sometimes these moments feel like cheap tricks, but they work.

I was on the edge of my seat (and sometimes nearly out of it) and my mouth agape for much of the film’s 97-minute runtime, as “Insidious: Chapter 3” did not try to complicate its narrative.

It simply delivers a tightly-wound story under tense circumstances while at the same time, we are reintroduced to Elise and the backstory of HER journey.

Her personal journey bring moments of levity and warmth, and they nicely blend in heartening small pockets while the movie brings us genuine and straight-forward scares.

After losing touch with this character for two years, Elise is an old friend I’d love to figuratively find on Facebook.

Perhaps 2015 is simple after all. (3/4 stars)

Image credits: Focus Features, Gramercy Pictures, Stage 6 Films

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