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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



Insidious: Chapter 3, Review: The Man Who Can’t Breathe v/s Elise, the Psychic

Insidious: Chapter 3, Review: The Man Who Can’t Breathe v/s Elise, the Psychic

A prequel to the Lambert haunting (Insidious: Chapters 1 and 2), Chapter 3 (3 precedes 1 and 2?) has a few moments that really put the fear of God into you, and some that need you to be an Insidious Insider to appreciate. A dysfunctional family, a psychic who has demons of her own to battle, a couple of tall-talking Paranormal Activity bloggers and a demon who haunts and snatches away pure souls into his unreal realm for a hobby—these are the ingredients for a supernatural tale.

Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott) arrives at psychic/ghost-buster Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye)’s home, begging the psychic to contact her recently deceased mother. Elise has given-up the profession due to near-death experiences, and warns the girl about what can happen when one tries to contact the dead. But after initial reluctance, Elise agrees to try to contact Quinn’s mother. However, the impromptu séance does not go as planned, and is called off. Quinn returns home to resume her teenage life.

One night, just before an audition for an acting school in New York, she sees a shadowy figure waving to her just off stage. Afterwards, when Quinn and her friend, Maggie (Hayley Kiyoko) begin to head home, Quinn spots the figure waving to her once again. Distracted, she gets hit by a car and both her legs suffer multiple fractures. Quinn is looked after by her father, Sean (Dermot Mulroney), who is a single parent, also raising her brother Alex (Tate Berney). After Quinn is attacked by an inhuman entity in her room one night, Sean decides seeks Elise’s help. Elise realises that she needs to enter The Further and confront a very powerful demon that wants to control and collect human souls, The Man Who Can’t Breathe (Michael Reid MacKay).

Written by the man who wrote Saw and the first two Insidious movies (directed by his friend James Wan) and marking Australian writer Leigh Whannell’s directorial debut, the film has well-scripted shocking incidents, but an equal number of amateurish directorial moments and hamming dialogue. Several loose ends are noticeable too: Why does the demon need to breathe? Why does it need humans to be transported into The Further? How gullible are the Brenners and Elise to be taken in by Internet upstarts Tucker and Specs?—and so on. Does the lamp that Elise carries have to be spooky? Elise’s seancés are conducted in the most prosaic and unimaginative language. Quinn’s strained relationships with her father and brother are not fully justified. Elise’s initial refusal and then sudden agreement to assist the visiting Quinn is not explained. In spite of repeated attacks, the incapacitated Quinn is always left alone. Yet, the film does have four or five potent scenes that carry it through.

Dermot Mulroney (August: Osage County) as the anguished father is initially irritable and later suitably protective, going with the role’s demands. Stefanie Scott (18; big break after some small roles; favourite film: The Shining) looks like sweetie pie, but gets to rough it out in the second half. Lin Shaye reprises her role in earlier Insidious outings, getting a lot of sympathy for the loss of her husband, who committed suicide, her lonely life with only an old dog for company, and her inner strength that makes her take on the evil powers, in spite of grave danger. But it is a stock role, not asking for great acting. Steve Coulter, as her true friend Carl, is dignified. As Quinn’s pal Maggie, Hayley Kiyoko is the usual, bubbly teenage companion. The black couple is competently portrayed by Jeris Poindexter and Phyllis Applegate (Black Dynamite, Big Momma's House, The Arrival), though there is no explanation offered about her rantings (you could guess, though).

Jack Rainier’s ghost is Adrian Sparks, well-matched to wife Elise’s persona. Michael Reid Mackay, with his frail physique and oxygen mask, and his laboured breathing an ominous foreboding of worse things to come, is the stuff that terror is made of. As the Internet frauds, Angus Sampson and Mr. Whannell himself,  do raise a few laughs, which, sadly, in the context of the proceedings, might be somewhat misplaced. Ele Keats has a brief role as the soul Lillith Brenner, with nothing to say. Tate Berney is on screen in a couple of scenes as the brat of a brother. Whannell’s mentor and a producer on this venture, James Wan, appears in a cameo, conducting Quinn’s audition. And guess what? The man who composed fine music for the series, Joseph Bishara, is on screen too, as a lipstick-face demon! One very well-written and well-executed shot features Erin Anderson as a two-faced woman. And she does not have to do anything to send a shiver down your spine.

Watch it if you are an Insidious follower. Watch it with lowered expectations if you are not, and you might even find it quite engaging.

Rating: **1/2



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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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