Sunday, 1 January 2017

Horror double-bill

“Sure it wasn’t just a bad dream?” INSIDIOUS - CHAPTER 3 (2015) is actually a prequel set in the haunted house before the Lamberts owned it. Motherless teen Quinn (Stefanie Scott) visits a psychic biddy (Lin Shaye), and then gets hit by a car. Soon, she’s possessed by big bad and causing havoc in her own bedroom. The creator of Saw and Insidious’ writer Leigh Whannell (who acts in this as blogger Specs) makes his debut as director here, conjuring pop-up/ drop-in frighteners, like phantom arms and legs that crave poor Quinn’s company in darkness.

A faceless crawler embodies otherworldly forces with a stranglehold on domestic reality, but horrible clich├ęs of night-vision POV-cameras spoil the atmosphere. Exorcist and especially Poltergeist are the obvious genre touchstones and this merely routine spook fest is a major disappointment. Insidious: Chapter 4 is due this October.

A simplistic haunted-house rationale is never quite enough for chillers like SINISTER 2 (2015), a sequel that works fairly well as standalone suspenser, although it’s not in same class as Sinister. “The aesthetic observance of violence” in 16mm snuff movies (surely the original found-footage format!) is a kind of gateway drug when a gang of evil ghosts practice their malignant influence upon the twin sons of heroine, Courtney (Shannyn Sossamon - Catacombs, Wristcutters, One Missed Call remake), whose hobby is restoring furniture. A disused church is an unsolved-crime scene that’s best visited in daylight. Courtney’s boys squabble over the stash of celluloid reels and filmmaking equipment found in the cellar. Watching those collected ‘death games’ of the past inevitably threatens murder in the present. 

Ciaran Foy (maker of Citadel) directs episodic supernatural events in set-pieces imperfectly integrated into a predictable storyline. However, it’s wholly effective as it fulfils the expectations of a spooky drama with some well-timed frights. Prompted by mysterious, and seemingly omnipresent, entity Bughuul, the bad kids’ idea of fun is visually referential to Children Of The Corn so the ending soon becomes obvious. As usual in this type of broken-family scenario, real human villainy comes from the young boys’ arrogant/ abusive father - a bullying redneck intent on winning a custody battle by using all the crooked tactics he can muster.

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