Horror films can be predicatable and in this regard Insidious: Chapter 3 did not disappoint but audiences want the new and surprising, and they received that neither from the plot nor the protagonist but from the upstaging of the star (haunted victim of a resident demon), by the demon buster. However, Fortune’s in-house film critic managed to award Insidious: Chapter 3 half marks for nothing but ‘Joseph Bishara’s loud and uncompromising score.’ It was the score that provided the element of horror and earned the movie five stars out of 10.

As almost every college student would concur, these last two weeks were frenetic ones filled with final exams. So, as Friday approached, I was ecstatic to shelve my worries and enjoy a good movie. And as Matti Cinema brings the latest movies every week (sometimes even movies that have not premiered in the western world), I was expecting the new screening to be the critically acclaimed and long awaited Pixar animated movie Inside Out. I called the cinema before I went though and found out that the new release was going to be a third entry in a mediocre horror franchise. To say the least, I was disillusioned.

The movie was actually released a while ago and has already entered and spent some time at the box office. I imagine that it was not Matti Cinema’s intention to show the movie, but they must have encountered some problems procuring Inside Out in time for this week. This is especially evident from the fact that the movie opened at Cinema hall #2, which has fewer seats, instead of Cinema hall #3, which has much more seats (and as a result was still reserved for the strongly ticket selling Jurassic World).

I had no misconceptions about how bad a movie Insidious: Chapter 3 would turn out to be. The movie has already received mixed reviews from critics and has also largely been ignored by audiences, who usually are suckers for sequels, prequels or spin-offs, however bad they might actually turn out to be. It is also no secret that the reason for this film’s existence is the commercial success of its siblings. This is nothing more than a studio vehicle. But then again, I thought, in the hope of perking up myself, so was Aliens. Green lit by studio heads in hopeful of emulating the success of the original Ridely Scott sci-fi horror thriller; the movie was given to the then up-and-coming James Cameron to write and direct and many of us know how that little venture turned out.

Insidious: Chapter 3, I should say is as much character-driven as it is plot-driven. We are first introduced to the movie’s protagonist (which is arguable, but we will come back to this point later) Elise Rainer (Lin Shaye). She is the ideal 21st century protagonist: sweet and beautiful, wears simple outfits, reads Shakespeare, is slightly cutely weird and hangs posters of PJ Harvey in her room (indicating sophisticated taste in music). Furthermore, she is so sentimental; she actually tries to contact her dead mother. And that is where things become a bit interesting. On trying to contact her dear old departed, she accidentally calls up a deadly demon that by chance (and never mind the odds) also lives in the same apartment as she does.

The demon is actually a guy with a breathing apparatus (he is probably Darth Vader’s ghost, but then again Darth Vader redeemed himself in the end, did he not?). The film does not explain anything more about the villain, but that the demon, like all other guys, does not take no for an answer. He haunts and haunts and haunts the hapless girl until her father finally finds out about it. And the father, protective of his only daughter and frustrated by the guy’s – I mean “demon’s” – tenacious pursuit of his daughter, decides to enlist the help of an accomplished but retired female ghost hunter (who has guy – I mean “demon” – problems of her own).

The film is directed by the writer of two previous Insidious movies, Leigh Whannell (he also plays a character called Specs in this film), in what is his directorial debut. He is mostly known for his collaborations with James Wan, which maybe why his directing (or writing) is not that commendable. Wan is a strictly commercial film maker, and Whannell is trying to follow in those footsteps. The film could have been about so much more; it could have incorporated complex themes of vulnerability and sexual dominance but throws those away for some simple cheap horror tricks.

The script has various problems, and the most serious of them all is the wrong choice of a protagonist. The true star of the movie is the ghost hunter (played by Ele Keats) who has her own back-story, is an active character, and has a character arc. If Whannell or studio, were not so afraid of creating part of a multimillion dollar horror film franchise centered on an old woman that is not Meryl Streep or Judi Dench or Helen Mirren, Insidious: Chapter 3 might have actually turned out to be a good movie.

For all my denunciations of this movie though, I will not deny that it is scary. And no, it is not because of Whannell’s script, it is because of Joseph Bishara’s loud and uncompromising score. Few scenes by Whannell were visually scary; but with Bishara’s score – which is not especially unique but excels for some reason – the film takes on a tortuous horrific dimension. So, for all the horror fans out there, if they are crazy enough to spend 2 hours of their lives watching this run-of-the-mill horror movie, they should probably do it in a theatre with great speakers (like that of Matti Cinema, which boasts a 7.1 surround sound system, as it has been advertised endlessly), because the only great thing about the movie is its sound.

By Christian Tesfaye
Fortune Film Reviewer whose interests run amok in both directions of print and celluloid/digital storytelling.

Published on Jul 20,2015 [ Vol 16 ,No 794]



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