Plot: When teenager Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott) senses that her late mother is trying to contact her, she seeks help from gifted psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye). However, Elise’s tragic past makes her reluctant to use her abilities. After Quinn is attacked by a malevolent entity, her father (Dermot Mulroney) pleads with Elise for help. With support from two parapsychologists, Elise ventures deep into The Further — where she finds a powerful demon with an insatiable craving for human souls.
NOTE: Minor spoilers from this point onwards.
The Further is not a place you want to mess with. It’s horrifying. Or is it?
Okay, let’s go back to the start- as you have read the plot above, by now, you should be aware that this installment is a prequel to the first two films, meaning brand new characters, brand new house, brand new story. However, that’s where this film falls weakest- story and character development. Insidious has always been about the world of the Further- that’s one of the reasons why the first film broke out- it simply was something more than a haunted house movie. After all, it’s not the house that’s haunted, it’s the boy (or the man). However, unlike the first film, where they introduced the Further, and the second film, where they introduced time travel within the Further, this film does not introduce any new elements to that dimension, instead being more a simplified retread. Those interested in the mythology of this different world will only emerge disappointed, knowing nothing new. Meanwhile, for the plot, it’s mostly simplified, a huge contrast with the second film, where the plot was too convulated and too complicated. Nothing apart from the Further distinguishes this from other horror movies- the context is largely the same. As you have seen from the plot, this film is all about a teenage girl who thinks her mom is contacting her, but of course it’s not. The smart thing about this plot is that by simplifying this story, it gives more chance for jump scares. And there’s plenty of chances for that. After all, the protagonist here is bed-ridden, therefore being rendere unable to move around or run, and the father is a busy working man, who is hardly ever there except in the night. Due to the girl being bed-ridden, it allows most other characters to get out of the mix, as half the film takes place in her bedroom. However, that’s when I have this question to post- why would this film introduce Maggie (Quinn’s friend), Hector (neighbour), and give Quinn a younger rebellious brother when they aren’t even going to be developed anyway? It makes their addition all the more confusing and unneccessary. Meanwhile, Quinn’s father, Sean, hardly does more than be the father who is always there when Quinn shouts, once again lacking much development. Meanwhile, for Quinn, after probably the first one third of the show, the character which the film attempted to develop went downhill, only screaming and getting possessed. The one that gets developed the most is Elise’s character, who has appeared in all 3 films to date. Somehow, despite appearing slightly less than Quinn, she has been developed far more than her. In this film, we learn about her deceased husband, and her emotions were strongly present. Specs and Tucker, meanwhile, once again serve as short relief from all the chaos and scares going on, but their characters are not as well developed either. It was as if this film just abandoned all development for a more simple, fearful horror movie (moved about the scares in a moment).
Let’s just say that perhaps the worse and most confusing part of the whole film has to be the climax. That was the moment when things just went crazy and confusing. The show stopped being scary, instead being laughable. The story turned from a more grounded to a more heroic take. Let’s just say it in a few words- Elise simply became badass (Come on, Bitch) and The Further suddenly turns into a child’s toy. I mean, just look, if a 71 year old lady can just punch demons away and crack the ground, why wouldn’t a young teenage girl be able to do that. Why couldn’t Josh do that when he was facing off against the Woman/Man in the black veil? Oh, and one thing which has been bugging me- if Elise can just go into the Further readily, why didn’t she do that in the first installment, instead forcing Josh to do it him selves? I mean, if she went in his place, there wouldn’t be a possessed Josh right? That’s just one of the many problems and discontinuity problems in the final act of the film. Things just start getting ridiculous, and nowhere as neat as the story in the first 2 films. The worst? It gets unbelievable. At least the first two-thirds were well done, and were genuinely frightening at parts, but they were pretty standard.
But all the above are not that important. At least not in horror movies, where scares hold the most importance. For this film, let’s just say that there were some genuinely good and tense sequences. However, for the most part, they are mostly predictable- turn around the first time, or do something the first time, nothing, then something jumps out or appears the second time. What this film did well though, is the contrast in noise. The film is just so quiet, that when something pops up, there’s usually loud blasting music accompanying it. This is used to good effect- it makes the scares more sudden and jolting, and I have to admit, I did jump a couple of times. All in all, the scares were decent.
The cinematography was decent enough. It did allow some scenes to be lifted further. Let’s just use the example (SPOILERS???) of the scene where Quinn was having an online session with Maggie where the screen froze and she was thrown to the ground. With the limited view, it definitely made the scene suspenseful, as we could only see what Quinn could see (mostly), allowing this sequence to be one of the most frightening in the film.
One commendable performance in this film would be Lin Shaye, who has played Elise since the first installment, the demonologist. For once, we got to see the weak, soft and frightened side of her, as well as the strong side of her we remember her best. It definitely makes her a character we would willingly root for. Apart from the shaky last act, her fear is definitely relatable and easily empathized with. The rest of the characters were mediocre and okay at best.
However, let’s not forget that this is the rare horror movie which actually makes you feel for one of the characters. There’s lots of emotions present, and it has been a long time since I have actually felt something other than fear in a horror movie. After seeing her surprise and how she breaks down upon seeing her dead husband in The Further, for a moment, I finally got convinced that even characters in horror movies have a heart. Let’s not forget about how death of ones family member is an important topic in this film, which has been handled rather well.
Summary: If you want to go in for the scares, this film is definitely okay, and has plenty of them, although some are predictable. For those looking of even more of the mythology of The Further, then this film lacks anything new. Lim Shaye puts in a commendable performance, while the climax Is a bit ridiculous, and only makes the whole film silly and The Further seem like a video game, where the difficulty is easy. However, considering it is the director’s directorial debut, previously serving as screenwriter, this is a good first attempt, which goes beyond a standard horror movie- being frightening and making one emotional at the same time.
Fear Factor: 7/10 (Thanks to 2 particularly horrifying sequences)
Character Development: 3/10
VFX/Costume Design/Production Design: 3/5
Total: 40.5/70 (58%)