Written & Directed by Leigh Whannell
Starring: Stefanie Scott, Dermot Mulroney, Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, and Angus Sampson

It’s been almost two years since Insidious: Chapter 2 was released. That film ended with a cliffhanger. Anyone expecting to see a continuation will be disappointed, as Insidious: Chapter 3 does a 180 and tells a completely different story. I’m not complaining, though. The third film in James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s horror saga is a welcome return to the disquieting atmosphere and inventive scares of the first film. While it doesn’t quite match that film in level of quality, it’s a vast improvement over its immediate predecessor, which bordered on self-parody.

Chapter 3 takes place a few years before the previous two films. The Lambert family plays no part in this story. We’re instead introduced to the Brenners: father Sean (Dermot Mulroney) and children Quinn (Stefanie Scott) and Alex (Tate Berney). They are mourning the sudden loss of their wife/mother to cancer. Strange happenings around the apartment convince Quinn that her mother may be trying to contact her from beyond the grave. After Quinn’s hit by a car and loses the use of her legs, she’s confined to her bedroom. There, she learns that what’s trying to contact her is not her mother, but an entity with a malicious agenda. Only trusty psychic Elise (Lin Shaye) can help her. But Elise has left her psychic days behind due to her own troubles within the further (which has yet to be named “the further”).

James Wan left to direct the latest entry in the Fast & Furious franchise, leaving directing duties for this installment to writer Leigh Whannell. You’d never guess this was his first time behind the camera. He handles himself more than capably. Along with cinematographer Brian Pearson (replacing John R. Leonetti, who left to direct the underwhelming Annabelle), he builds up the atmosphere that has become synonymous with this franchise. Although there are times where he relies a little too much on jump scares, for the most part, Whannell lets the tension build to an unbearable level before he hits you with the real scares. There are brief moments when the film approaches the self-parody of the second film. Luckily, these are few and far between and don’t ruin the movie.

Of course, Shaye isn’t the only star of this film. The rest of the cast is solid, too. As Quinn, Stefanie Scott has our sympathy from her first moments on screen. Hopefully we’ll be seeing more of her soon. Dermot Mulroney, the biggest name in the cast, is great as the father who has to perform double duty now that his wife has passed. Although he can be a jerk at times, his heart’s in the right place, and Mulroney is a natural at playing both sides of this character. Also back are Whannell and Angus Sampson as bickering ghost hunters Specs and Tucker.

Will there be an Insidious: Chapter 4? Who knows. Blumhouse Productions loves cranking out sequel after sequel, so I wouldn’t be surprised. We still need to find out exactly what Elise saw at the end of Chapter 2 (that look on her face has stuck with me). If this is the end, then at least we’ll know that the series ended on a high note. If there is a fourth, let’s hope it’s more like this than the second.

Mark Wanner is an Austin-based film and breakfast taco enthusiast. You can follow him on Twitter at @k_mark14
Mark has also recently covered the SXSW film fest with reviews on key films here and here.