One place where Rotten Tomatoes really has to be taken with a grain of salt is horror movies. Insidious: Chapter 3 originally had thumbs-down worthy ratings, prompting a certain amount of trepidation about seeing it. (The critical rating has crept up to a marginally positive 60% as of now.) But not a large amount, since we liked the first two quite a bit, and the second one was quite negatively received by critics (though audiences received pretty much all three the same, hovering right around 60%).
And while it's fair to say that this is an uneven movie, it's uneven because it uses a relatively fresh device, that of the "Further"—what might have been called the Astral Plane in former times—as a way to ratchet up suspense and bring a little movement into what can be an otherwise static formula.
For this movie, a prequel to the first two, we have once again the wonderful Lin Shaye as our ghostbusting medium. Here, though, she's afraid and depressed over her deceased husband, and out of the ghostbusting biz even when ridiculously cute and wholesome Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott of Disney's "A.N.T. Farm") comes to her looking for help in getting into communication with her dead mom.
Elise (Shay) gives it a shot, but can't really commune with the dead since she had a run-in with the demon from the first two Insidious movies. This actually makes sense in the context of the other two movies, but where this movie is strongest is mostly where it doesn't worry too much about the other two. Okay, with an exception for where it serves as an origin story, of sorts, for the Ghostbusters Biz featured in the previous films with Elise, Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (writer/director Leigh Whannell).
Anyway, the disaffected Quinn plans to run off to college to escape her overwhelmed, widowed father (Dermot Mulroney, The Grey, J. Edgar, Zodiac) who relies on her to raise his son, but of course the capricious spirits of The Further get in the way.
There are about three points in this movie where I actually uttered noise in shock. Two of those times, I lost the popcorn I was holding. (It was in a tiny tray, but still, The Boy ended up wearing it one of those times.) This movie does a lot of shocks, and does them well.
There's also a bit of good horror, a fair amount of suspense and even some mystery along with some new characters who, while fairly stock, are also reasonably developed.
As The Boy is fond of saying these days, somewhat sarcastically, "It may not have redefined what horror is, but it was pretty damn good!" Although he usually swears more colorfully. We have a lot of theories for why moviegoers and critics are so tough on horror films, but mostly we just take to ignoring them.
Very solid freshman effort from Whannell.