To enjoy “Insidious: Chapter 3" — and it is enjoyable — you needn’t have seen the first two films in this horror series. Although this third installment is a prequel set years before those earlier shockers, which involved the haunted Lambert family (not returning here), it stands well on its own as a jumpy spookfest.
The new movie establishes how Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye, tops), the series’ pivotal psychic who was killed off in the second film, began saving endangered families. To that end, she’s visited by Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott), an earnest teen aching to make contact with her beloved late mother. But once Elise begins to “read” Quinn, she senses trouble and warns the girl not to try to contact her mom on her own.
A terrible accident follows, leaving Quinn with two broken legs, a forced hiatus from school and an increasingly beleaguered single dad (Dermot Mulroney). Soon, though, Quinn starts being harassed by a ruthless demon fighting to transport the teen to the series’ ghastly otherworld, the Further.
Things escalate, and Elise is called in to help. But the clairvoyant has her own demons of the emotional kind, and they will need handling as well. The character’s nicely etched dimensionality adds much to the proceedings.
The mayhem leads to an effectively eerie showdown between Elise and the dead to reclaim Quinn’s soul. Help — and a bit of levity — is provided by the series’ goofy ghost hunters, Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson).
Franchise co-creator Whannell, who wrote and directed this proficiently shot and constructed picture, plugs in enough well-timed scares and creepy sights and sounds to hold interest, while shrewdly staying within the bounds of the film’s PG-13 rating.
“Insidious: Chapter 3"
MPAA rating: PG-13 for violence, frightening images, language, thematic elements.
Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes.
Playing: In general release.