Set a few years before the Lambert haunting in the first Insidious, Leigh Whannell’s sporadically scary prequel reaches into the grab bag of old tricks to jolt the audience out of their seats.
Whannell, who makes his directorial debut with this third chapter, does achieve one moment of delicious skin-crawling terror. Sometimes, stark simplicity makes the spine tingle. The third instalment centres on grief-stricken 17-year-old Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott, pictured right), who reaches out to gifted psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) following the death of her mother (Ele Keats) from cancer.
Soon after, Quinn is involved in an accident and becomes housebound in the apartment she shares with her father Sean (Dermot Mulroney) and younger brother Alex (Tate Berney).
A demon with an insatiable hunger for human souls — known as The Man Who Can’t Breathe (Michael Reid MacKay) — latches onto Quinn and attempts to possess the teenager’s body and soul.
Shocks are predictable, tapping into universal fears of the dark, and Sampson and Whannell offer light comic relief to distract from Mulroney, who is as wooden as the furniture in the Brenner apartment.
Unsurprisingly, writer-director Whannell leaves the cellar door ajar for a potential fourth descent into the ghoulish gloom.
From the opening scene of Listen Up Philip to its bitter and melancholy end, one is bombarded with reams of words. Tens of thousands of them spout from the mouths not just of characters, but also a glib and supercilious narrator who speaks in a grandiose and self-consciously literary style. In fact everyone in Alex Ross Perry's film talks like someone out of a book, a conscious decision in a film that tackles the moral and professional dilemmas of an up-and-coming New York novelist.
Almost from the very start, the James Bond films have been affectionately lampooned by comics and satirists. In the 1967 version of Casino Royale, David Niven played an absurdly suave and unflappable older Bond, and Our Man Flint (1965) starred James Coburn as a preposterously competent international spy and ladies' man. The problem, of course, is that the actual Bond films are often sillier than the spoofs, and you have to go pretty broad to stand any chance of getting a few laughs.
Paul Feig’s recent run as a director is the stuff of Hollywood dreams. Bridesmaids proved to be an industry game-changer, while The Heat was a rapturously received cop romp with oodles of laughs. As such, Feig has likely been handed the keys to the castle. Movie financiers deem him a safe pair of hands… and boy, is he ever going to have fun with those wallet-busting budgets.
It's often been suggested as a possible explanation for Hollywood's hedonism and debauchery that it sits on a geological fault line between two tectonic plates and could, like Sodom, disappear at any time. That's pretty much what happens in San Andreas, a big-budget action romp that wallows in the dubious traditions of the 1970s disaster movies and occasionally even has the wit to make fun of them. But only occasionally, because this is a blundering behemoth of a picture that unfolds with a heavy tread and smothers its storyline with hoary clichés and booming special effects.