Insidious: Chapter 3 (Cert 15)
Starring: Stefanie Scott, Lin Shaye, Dermot Mulroney, Tate Berney, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Michael Reid MacKay, Tom Fitzpatrick, Steve Coulter, Ele Keats.
Grief-stricken 17-year-old Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott) reaches out to gifted psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) following the death of her mother (Ele Keats) from cancer.
“If you call out to the dead, all of them can hear you,” warns Elise. 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.
Elise races to the Brenner residence to banish the evil by confronting the soul-sucking infestation in the netherworld, aided by quirky ghost hunters Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (Leigh Whannell).
Set a few years before the Lambert haunting in the first Insidious, Chapter 3 is a sporadically scary prequel that reaches into the grab bag of old tricks to jolt viewers out of their seats.
Floorboards creak, objects move of their own accord and demonic forces careen out of the dark to deafening bursts of staccato strings on the soundtrack composed by Joseph Bishara.
The script incorporates nods and winks to other films in the series including the reappearance of Elise’s spectral tormentor, the murderous Bride In Black (Tom Fitzpatrick), her fellow medium Carl (Steve Coulter) and the Lipstick-Face Demon.
Shaye and Scott deliver strong performances while Sampson and Whannell offer light comic relief to distract from Mulroney, who is as wooden as the furniture in the Brenner apartment. A three-disc box set comprising Insidious and the two sequels is also available.
San Andreas (Cert 12)
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Ioan Gruffudd, Paul Giamatti, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson.
The San Andreas Fault, which runs for more than 800 miles through California, gives way, triggering a magnitude nine earthquake.
Search and rescue helicopter pilot Chief Ray Gaines (Dwayne Johnson) hunts for survivors including his estranged wife Emma (Carla Gugino), who has filed for divorce so she can pursue a new relationship with wealthy real estate developer Daniel Reddick (Ioan Gruffudd).
Reunited in tragedy, Ray and Emma head to San Francisco to save their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario), who has joined forces with a handsome Brit called Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) and his 11-year-old brother Ollie (Art Parkinson) to survive the devastation.
Just when it seems the worst is over for the Gaines family, a doom-saying professor (Paul Giamatti) at California Institute of Technology predicts a bigger earthquake and a massive tsunami from which there will be no escape.
San Andreas is a computer effects-heavy disaster movie which marries the hoary dialogue in Carlton Cuse’s script with increasingly outrageous action sequences including the implausible sight of a rescue helicopter weaving between skyscrapers as they tumble into one another like giant metallic dominoes.
Digital effects vary wildly in quality and screenwriter Cuse short-changes us with characterisation, hastily sketching a fractured family that is destined to reunite in the eye of the digitally summoned storm. Johnson looks physically pumped, taking to land, sea and air to reach his beloved daughter, while Gugino simpers with pride at his gung-ho antics. In the parallel plot strand, Daddario and Johnstone-Burt play out a sweet, yet lukewarm romance to justify their continued survival while thousands around them perish.
Survivor (Cert 12)
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Pierce Brosnan, Dylan McDermott, James D’Arcy, Roger Rees, Angela Bassett, Antonia Thomas, Sean Teale, Rege-Jean Page, Jing Lusi.
Security expert Kate Abbott (Milla Jovovich) is drafted to the US embassy in London by her mentor, Ambassador Maureen Crane (Angela Bassett), to identify visa applicants who pose a threat to homeland security.
Intuition tells Kate to look closer into Romanian doctor Emil Balan (Roger Rees), who wants to visit America to attend a medical conference. She delays his visa application with the backing of section chief Sam Parker (Dylan McDermott) and investigates further, aided by four ambitious interns (Antonia Thomas, Sean Teale, Rege-Jean Page, Jing Lusi).
An elusive hit man known as The Watchmaker (Pierce Brosnan) is hired to eliminate Kate in order to expedite Balan’s visa application, which is part of a bigger plot to inflict massive damage on American soil.
Survivor is an explosive-laden spy thriller, which uses the covert war on terrorism since the September 11 attacks as a wobbly framework for a predictable game of cat and mouse between a fearless US agent and a sadistic assassin.
James McTeigue’s generic battle of patriotic Americans versus nasty foreigners casts Jovovich in her familiar role as a one-woman killing machine.
Her ability to emerge unscathed from a hail of bullets during the film’s action sequences is one of many perplexing questions that remain unanswered by Philip Shelby’s flimsy script.
Brosnan’s lacklustre performance remains in the shadow of a fake moustache that occasionally crawls across his upper lip. The picture’s 48-hour timeframe should generate a far greater sense of urgency than McTeigue accomplishes.
Set pieces are solid if unremarkable, including bruising fistfights between the two leads.