The Insidious movies are our spookiest contemporary horror series. While other films have been of the profoundly scary and devastating sort (Kill List), or loaded with anticipatory dread (It Follows), the Insidious films truly nail a jolting funhouse vibethe shadowy fun in being scared. Insidious: Chapter 3 holds strong here, which is refreshing in a time when the once hair-raising Night #1 title cards of the Paranormal Activities have long since lost their luster.
Its even more impressive when one considers the flat truth of constructing such nightmarish sequences. Insidious writer and now Insidious: Chapter 3 director Leigh Whannell is on the phone with Shock to talk contributing these terrifying bits to contemporary horror and laughing. You have to remember, when youre on a film set, its a sterile place and its a busy place, he says. Dozens of people standing around, holding equipment, checking their phones, yawning. Someones standing there eating a snickers bar, just off camera.
Every scary movie youve ever seen, or cinematic masterpiece The Godfather, 2001, The Shining. Just look at any frame of The Shining and pause it, and then picture yourself three feet past the edge of that frame, theres some dude eating a Snickers bar. That goes for Police Academy and that goes for 2001. Its not a very scary place.
Whannell talks of the virtues of music and editing, when a scene really starts to take shape, but what he and collaborator James Wan have also nailed are core ideas in their frights, and inventive setups evocative of simple anxieties: Is something on the other side of my sheet? Whose footsteps are those?
As Insidious: Chapter 3 hits theaters, I chose the five most frightening moments in the series and Whannell added smart, funny commentary on their ideas and production
Minor spoilers follow for this weekend’s Chapter 3