After the first installation in the series, sequels to Insidious have been generally poorly received, if one is to believe the Tomatometer. The first one was modestly well-received, the second one less so, the third one more than the second, and now this one least of all. The lag on such things is interesting, sort of: The second one has far and away the highest box office, at $80M, while the 1, 3 and 4 hover around $50M, and it looks like 4 will finish ahead of 1 and 3. (I once had a discussion with The Old Man where I pointed out that a record album’s sales were likely to be based on the quality of the previous album. I don’t think he believed me, but I still think people’s eagerness to buy the latest thing is going to be based on how they felt after buying the previous thing. It was probably less true of albums than it is of ticket sales.)
The Boy was somewhat reticent about going to see this given the low RTs (31/52) but then he remembered that they’ve all been pretty low and we’ve liked all of them. So, off we went, expectations modest—and more than well met, frankly.
As a side note, I think it’s kind of neat that a horror movie can capture the #1 spot at the box office (even if it is just January) when the franchise’s leading character is a 70-something woman (Lin Shaye) who has two nerdy sidekicks (played Angus Sampson and series’ writer/creator Leigh Whannell). Add in the lovely Caitlin Gerard and Spencer (?) Locke for damsel-in-distress appeal with a few appearances by stalwart Bruce Davison (as Shay’s estranged brother) and you got your self a $10M dollar movie which makes back its money several times over. Ooh! And Kirk Acevedo as the sympathetic-but-high-strung client.
In this installment, psychic Elise Rainier (Shay) gets a new client who just-so-happens to live in the house she grew up in. (OK, this isn’t a coincidence, and it’s never really suspected as such, and how awful would it have been were we supposed to believe that.) It turns out she ran away from home back in the ’50s because her father beat her mercilessly for having visions. The house is on-site at a prison (or maybe just near—near enough to have the lights flicker when someone is electrocuted) and, needless to say, there’s no shortage of boogens afoot. When Dad (Josh Stewart) locks Elise in the cellar after a reasonably harmless sighting, she discovers major evil afoot in the cellar and ends up letting a Big Bad out.
And then, things take a turn for the worse.
But not, I daresay, for the predictable, which is nice. Not that there’s any huge shockers here, but the movie throws in a fair amount of material plane peril to go with the ghostly stuff, and a lot of genuine emotional connection to go with the scares. I suspect Leigh Whannel, as a writer, has enough invested in Elise to appreciate being able to do these movies with a certain sensitivity, because it really doesn’t feel like a paint-by-the-numbers story.
If you recall earlier reviews, one thing I particularly like about the series is the astral plane adventures (they call it “The Farther”). It’s sorta goofy, and no less so here than in previous installments, but it’s also kind of fun and interesting: It lets you put a haunted house movie inside your haunted house movie. And they make The Farther a fairly strong parallel to reality so there’s not too much in the way of cartoonish antics.
Anyway, we liked it. Didn’t love it. It felt like director Adam Robitel’s pacing was a little off, like some scenes went on too long. I did feel like he was trying to miss the obvious beats, which is the sort of thing that can make horror movies dully predictable. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, points for trying.
If you’ve liked the series, you won’t be disappointed.