[Screen It]

(2015) (Stefanie Scott, Lin Shaye) (PG-13)

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Horror: A recently retired spiritual medium agrees to help a teenage girl who's being terrorized by a demonic entity that wants her soul.
Elise Rainier (LIN SHAYE) is a former spiritual medium who's given up that line of work following the death of her husband and her encounters with a demonic entity -- in the shape of an older woman -- that wants her dead. Thus, when teenager Quinn Brenner (STEFANIE SCOTT) shows up at her door asking for help in contacting her mother who died a year and a half ago, Elise is reluctant to return to that world. Feeling sorry for the girl, however, she agrees to a gratis session, but that doesn't result in her reaching the late mother. Instead, she comes into contact with an evil entity and warns the teen to not try again.

Back home, Quinn lives with her overwhelmed father, Sean (DERMOT MULRONEY), and younger brother, Alex (TATE BERNEY), and can't wait to get away from both of them, a sentiment she shares with her best friend, Maggie (HAYLEY KIYOKO). While out for the night with her, Quinn is severely injured when she's struck by a vehicle while distracted by the distant sight of a man in a hospital gown waving to her. Now with two broken legs, she's pretty much bedridden, a development that proves troubling considering she starts having supernatural encounters with that figure from before, dubbed The Man Who Can't Breathe (MICHAEL REID MacKAY).

As those hauntings become both more numerous and dangerous, Alex suggests they bring in supernatural exterminators Tucker (ANGUS SAMPSON) and Specs (LEIGH WHANNELL), two ghostbusters who are just starting their careers. When they realize they're in over their heads, they're relieved by the arrival of Elise who, despite her own related dangers, agrees to try to help rid the teen of the demonic entity that wants to take the rest of her soul into the void known as The Further.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
Aside from the self-aware "Scream" and "Scary Movie" franchise entries in the genre of horror films, it's rare to find movie characters in new scary flicks that seem to have watched any such pics at any point in their lives.

Granted, there's obvious and documented precedent behind the old saying about those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it. Accordingly, I guess we're supposed to accept that characters in horror flicks will repeat unwise behavior time and time again.

Even so, it would be nice every once in a while to have characters who acknowledge the perils and/or stupidity of trying to contact the dead, going down into basements when the lights no longer work, and looking under beds and peering into closets during goose bump alert time.

Those hoping for just that in "Insidious: Chapter 3" will likely walk away disappointed, although anyone paying to see any installment numbered higher than the first slot in such a film series shouldn't expect too much in the terms of addressing common sense issues.

Considering the first two films grossed some considerable dinero as compared to their micro budgets, it was a foregone conclusion that more sequels would be on their way. What some might not be anticipating, though, is that this one would go backward rather than forward along the linear storyline.

While the previous film sort of did that by wrapping back into and pulling the proceedings from the first film into its plot, this one is a pure prequel, set "several years" before the first notes of the original pic.

Leigh Whannell, who wrote the first two installments in this series (and played a character in them to boot), continues such duties here, but now also dons the director's cap for the first time in his career. His story begins when a teenage girl (Stefanie Scott) arrives on the doorstep of a recently retired spiritual medium (Lin Shaye, reprising her role from the previous offerings), all in hopes of contacting her dead mother.

Elise agrees, but only if the work is free, and before you know it there's a bogeyman on the loose who's after the teen. Dressed like a hospital patient zombie (hospital gown, decomposed look, slow movement), he initially appears to be a nice, if creepy guy, slowly waving to our young protagonist on two occasions.

The second results in her being struck by a vehicle in the film's best and most effective jump scene. It also leaves her with two busted gams, and while that disability isn't quite as unsettling as Audrey Hepburn being blind in "Wait Until Dark," it does prevent the usual teen running away while screaming material.

Whannell does manage to set up some decently spooky moments, but most are just to allow one jump scene after another to be the end result. Accordingly, and is oft the case with most horror films nowadays, the "scares" end up being more akin to that of a haunted house type ride at some amusement park rather than something that will have you nervous at home once the lights are turned out.

The ghost-hunting duo played by Whannell and Angus Sampson -- also seen in the previous flicks -- make their debut here, and provide some very slight comic relief, but don't really do much for the offering. The best decision is in giving Shaye and her character more screen time than the first two times around, and the flick works best when the focus is on her rather than the rote teen and her dad (Dermot Mulroney, following Sam Rockwell in the "Poltergeist" remake as a dad who oddly enough doesn't truly seem too worried about his daughter being in danger).

If you like your horror films in the form of having things jump out at characters or the camera, you could do worse than this offering. But if you like your scares to elicit goose bumps days, weeks or even years down the road just thinking about what was seen, this one won't do that for you. "Insidious: Chapter 3" rates as a 5 out of 10.

Reviewed June 3, 2015 / Posted June 5, 2015

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