The set-up of this franchise restart is that Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) and his young son Dalton (Kasjan Wilson) are hypnotised to forget the events of Insidious 2 – so they can get on with their lives untroubled by memories of the time Josh was possessed and went all Jack Torrance with a hammer and father and son had an adventure in a limbo called the Further. On the one hand, it’s a paper-thin premise … on the other, I had actually forgotten everything about Insidious 2 (there are another couple of sequels which are actually prequels and ditch the Lamberts in favour of Lin Shaye’s psychic busybody) so it’s fairly credible. Wilson, who has see-sawed between Insidii and Conjurings, is back as co-leading man, with Ty Simpkins as college-age Dalton, and also as director, on the principle you have to offer him something extra to get back on board a flagging franchise. I often use Insidious as an example of the way it’s hard for mainstream critics to get their heads round horror – on most levels, it’s a so-so picture (flatly written, played with mere competence, reliant on overused tropes) but it’s pretty scary so it has to be counted a success. The sequels tick all the why-it’s-shit boxes but do less and less well by the scary.
This has a couple of okay contrived spook scenes, which are almost self-contained … a bad experience in a medical scanner, a brush with a frat house ghost. But it’s stuck with a lot of soap Daddy issues guff as Josh frets about his own absent Dad, who turns out to have been a previous victim of the Further, and has trouble connecting with his sulky artist son. He’s also divorced and moved back into his just-dead mother’s house, which removes him from the campus stuff with Dalton doing some Scooby-Doo stuff with bright-spark new pal Chris (Sinclair Daniel) that eventually ties back into the Further as his professor (Hiam Abbass) tells him to paint something from his unconscious, which turns out to be a red roor and his possessed Dad wielding a 3D hammer. It winds up, as expected, with a trip to the beyond and a family reconciliation – suggesting that Scott Teems (the writer, taking over from Insidious creator Leigh Whannell – who does a cameo) is yet another of those Hollywood screenwriters who’s still not over his Dad not turning up for any of his Little League games. Rose Byrne is back in a mostly nothing Mom role, which makes me wonder whether Blumhouse have got her lined up to direct the next one.