I haven’t had the time to write full reviews of summer movies like I have wanted to. In fact I’ve had to drop some reviews because I got so behind in the fast paced (well weekly) releases of the new next big movie. With that said the following is a special edition of Random Reviews covering what I have missed. I hope to have more in the upcoming weeks as I catch up on movies.
Insidious: Chapter 3
The new chapter in the terrifying horror series is written and directed by franchise co-creator Leigh Whannell. This chilling prequel, set before the haunting of the Lambert family, reveals how gifted psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) reluctantly agrees to use her ability to contact the dead in order to help a teenage girl (Stefanie Scott) who has been targeted by a dangerous supernatural entity. (C) Focus
It’s weird to think considering I mostly cover horror and action movies but I was late to the Insidious bandwagon. It’s something I just never got around to watching when it came out. As it turns out the first movie totally lived up to the hype. Directed by James Wan it was a fun, haunted house story that pushed my expectations of PG-13 horror. Insidious 2, not so much. Like sequels before it Chapter 2 felt more like a rehash of past scares just less cool. With a change of director and the fact that it was a prequel I was a bit worried for Insidious 3. I mean these are sure signs of a franchise on the down slide. Luckily this wasn’t the case.
While our heroes are ones we have already met (Tucker, Specs and Elise) the family being haunted is brand new. While a bit bland they were different which was a major plus. While no actors were as good as Patrick Wilson they certainly held their own and had their own family dynamics. We also move the action to a high rise in New York instead of the suburban settings of previous movies. While these may sound minor the change of background helped make the movie feel fresh. Helping this change of pace was having writer Leigh Whannell take over directing duties. Given he didn’t exactly break the mold but he did avoid some of creator James Wan’s usual tricks.
I can’t say all was great in this movie though. Continuing the tradition of ghosts with dumb names we have The Man Who Can’t Breathe, a ghost who needs a tank of oxygen. As it turns out even ghosts that cardio when they are on air tanks because this spirit does nothing. The most we get out of the ghost is waving ominously at the beginning. No joke, just waving. They try to cover this up by saying it’s stealing Quinn’s (Stefanie Scott) soul but this is immediately shut down when the ghost is cold cocked by Lin Shaye. I love Lin Shaye as much as the next guy but your ghost is pretty wack when a 71 year old woman is able to get the KO.
In all honesty this is a pretty minor setback though. Sure our lead villain is pretty basic but the scares are there. Whanell’s eye for horror is great and he can build suspense as good as anybody. While not as good as the original it’s a great re-introduction to Elise and things up for sequels worth making. Hopefully involving a ghost that actually does something.
The sequel to the 2012 sleeper hit horror movie. In the aftermath of the shocking events in “Sinister,” a protective mother (Shannyn Sossamon of “Wayward Pines”) and her 9-year-old twin sons (real-life twins Robert and Dartanian Sloan) find themselves in a rural house marked for death. (C) Focus
I’m not quite sure what I was expecting out of Sinister 2. While the first was certainly a stylish film with some great ideas I can’t say it was a complete success. Still I did enjoy it and am always interested in movies about killer kids so I was in for a sequel. Then the reviews came in. It was getting a Fantastic Four levels of hatred from the critics. I didn’t need it to be Citizen Kane. I just wanted a few scares, some decent kills and cool “home videos.” Surely the movie could provide that. Right?
The biggest and most glaring problem comes from the child actors. For whatever reason creators C. Robert Cargill and Scott Derrickson decided to focus on the creepy children as opposed to Bughuul. In theory this would work since they can convey emotions and actually advance the film’s mythology. This would be fine if any of the children could act in the least. I don’t mean one or two of the children are bad actors either. No we get a cast mostly made up of badly acting kids. The adults aren’t much better either. While it may be script being uninspiring things like Shannyn Sossamon’s wavering Southern accent bothered me to no end. Speaking of the script this thing is all over the place. Part slasher, part ghost and part family drama Sinister 2 tries to tie this all together with little success. The best example of this is the fact that the Collins family is not only troubled but the father is physically and emotionally abusive. I understand wanting to include some realism but it’s not only cartoonishly over the top but tonally out of place. They could have easily cut this subplot out and given more time to the other half baked subplots they came up with.
The other major flaw of the film is how dull the whole thing looks. Without the visual flair Scott Derrickson provided in the original it all feels very flat. Instead we have Ciaran Foy, director of Citadel. While Foy is a good director in his own right it doesn’t translate here. Even the “home movies” don’t work with bad CG and not feeling stylized enough. Despite having triple the budget of the original I can’t help but it all feels very direct-to-video.
I can’t say I hated everything about Sinister 2 though. Ignoring his awful name Deputy So & So made for a perfectly acceptable protagonist. Actor James Ransone brought a certain earnestness to the character that I found worth following. We also get a bit more of a look at the how and why children get influenced by Bughuul. It’s an intriguing idea and could have been pulled off with better acting and writing.
After all that I have to be honest, I didn’t hate this movie. I didn’t find myself hating the characters like I did The Gallows nor I was bored by it like Fantastic Four. Just another bad horror sequel. Instead of trying to be it’s own movie or explore the interesting ideas it does have Sinister 2 just tries to emulate the first film. And lazily at that. It isn’t the first bad horror sequel and it certainly won’t be the last. Hopefully the series can pull an Insidious: Chapter 3 style comeback.