While everyone talks about Saw as being the franchise that brought the team of James Wan and Leigh Whannell to the public consciousness, Insidious is the pinnacle of their creative brilliance. By the time of the third film, however, Wan had moved on to Furious 7, leaving his partner Whannell to both write and direct Insidious 3, aka Insidious: Chapter 3.
This time, though, the focus wouldn’t be on the Lambert family who’d been the crux of the firs two entries. Instead, it’d be a prequel focusing on Lin Shaye’s demonologist Elise Rainer as she assists a new family, the Brenners.
From the outside looking in, Insidious 3 appeared to be a cash grab, milking the franchise for any last juice. The absence of Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne didn’t bode well either, as this felt like a low-budget affair. (Ironically, it was the most expensive film in the franchise to date.) Also, it was Whannell’s directorial debut. Everyone knew he could write, but could he fill the shoes of his friend and long-time collaborator, Wan?
Turns out that Whannell had his own reservations about Insidious: Chapter 3, too. “I was concerned about it in the sense that it was a blank slate, new family. I had to approach it as if none of these events had happened before,” he told Den of Geek. “But what’s freeing about it is you aren’t constrained by anything. So, if you suddenly have a hair-brained idea to do this or that, you are not hemmed in.”
The blank slate proved to be Insidious 3‘s greatest strength. While most horror franchises struggle to move away from its main protagonists, this film showed how the concept is stronger than the individuals. Yes, the presence of Elise, Tucker and Specs ensured there was a familiarity, but it was more of a story thread than the nuts and bolts.
The film also remained genuinely scary like the previous instalments. There are a few scenes with the Bride in Black that make The Conjuring 2‘s Nun look like something out of Sister Act. More importantly, the themes of solidarity and love resonate throughout Insidious 3. These movies aren’t just scarefests—they’re about struggling families finding the strength to fight evil and come out on the other side.
It isn’t often that you can say the third film in a franchise is one of the strongest. In the case of Insidious: Chapter 3, it’s as good if not better than everything before and after it. Watch it again with a fresh set of eyes and appreciate what Whannell and his collaborators created here.