Tag Archives: Leigh Whannell

Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015) Review

Time: 98 Minutes
Age Rating: M
Lin Shaye as Elise Rainier
Stefanie Scott as Quinn Brenner
Dermot Mulroney as Sean Brenner
Angus Sampson as Tucker
Leigh Whannell as Specs
Director: Leigh Whannell

Quinn, a young girl, reaches out to a powerful psychic to help her contact her recently deceased mother. However, her plan backfires when an evil spirit makes Quinn a host and hurts her physically.

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After writing horror movies, including the first two Insidious movies, Leigh Whannell made his directorial debut with the third chapter in the franchise. I really didn’t remember much of it as I was entering my rewatch of it, but overall I thought it was alright.

Despite the title, Chapter 3 is a prequel to the previous couple Insidious movies, focussing on a new family being affected by a demon. I wasn’t invested with them as much as I was with the Lambert family in Chapters 1 and 2. It was a more cliched and generic demon possession story. Still, it was a decent enough story, and it mostly stands on its own. Many have noted that killing the character of Elise Rainier at the end of the first movie was one of the franchise’s biggest mistakes. Given how the third movie went back in time to have a movie with her, it seems that the creators are inclined to agree. It still has the family as the main focus, but Elise has a much bigger role and plays a part in the plot from the start. Everything involving her were the most interesting parts of the movie. It provides even more backstory for the first movie, and it was nice seeing Elise team up with her sidekicks Specs and Tucker for the first time. One of the weaker parts of the movie for me was the demon. Its design is pretty good, but there’s plenty about the entity that wasn’t explained, and there wasn’t any development for it. It felt kind of disposable and could’ve been swapped out with any vague demon idea.

Stefanie Scott is pretty good in the lead role as the girl who is affected by the demon. However, the standout unsurprisingly is Lin Shaye as Elise Rainier, in an increased role here. The first couple movies had her as an intriguing character, a psychic who is very aware of the spirit world and now doubt had plenty of experiences. In Chapter 3 we get to learn a bit more about her. It really shows her struggle of not wanting to tap into the supernatural, the movie really humanised her and expanded on her. It also shows more of paranormal investigators Specs and Tucker played by Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson as they were starting out before meeting Elise.

Instead of James Wan directing Insidious: Chapter 3, Leigh Whannell is helming it. It is a decent directorial debut, but you do notice the lack of Wan. The visual effects, makeup and costume design for the demon are great as always, some of the imagery is eerie, and the familiar score from Insidious is on point. It even has some of the dread and atmosphere that you’d expect. However, the jumpscares were lacking even compared to the last couple movies, and felt a little cheap.

Insidious: Chapter 3 is far from the best in the series. However, it was a pretty good and enjoyable prequel with some solid performances and was a decent directorial debut for Leigh Whannell.


Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013) Review

Time: 106 Minutes
Age Rating: M – Supernatural themes and violence
Rose Byrne as Renai Lambert
Patrick Wilson as Josh Lambert
Ty Simpkins as Dalton Lambert
Lin Shaye as Elise Rainier
Steven Coulter as Carl
Barbara Hershey as Lorraine Lambert
Leigh Whannell as Specs
Angus Sampson as Tucker
Director: James Wan

Josh Lambert and his family relocate to his mother’s old house in the hopes of recovering from past trauma. However, they soon encounter strange and chilling paranormal events.

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After the success of Insidious in 2010 and its cliffhanger ending, a sequel was inevitable. It seems that the films following the original weren’t that well received, even the immediate follow up by original director James Wan. However, I quite liked it.

Insidious: Chapter 2 picks up right after the first movie, so I don’t recommend watching the two movies too far apart. The story for the most part is good enough and paced steadily. There are two plotlines going on, one focussing on the main Lambert family with Josh being possessed by a demon, and the other following the characters played by Barbara Hershey, Steve Coulter, Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson as they investigate the demon. I found myself more interested in the latter plotline; it was interesting learning about the backstory. The Lambert family plotline had potential; Josh’s mind getting hijacked was interesting, but I felt that it could’ve been handled better. It mainly consists of haunting occurrences and jumpscares, and not much else. One thing I do like about Chapter 2 is how it continues the story instead of just rehashing the stuff in the first film. It builds on the first movie and fleshes out the story and backstory, provides context, and ties up the loose ends. Much like Insidious and much of James Wan’s other movies, the third act goes over the top and it is a little silly, but that’s to be expected. Chapter 2 isn’t without its issues. More so than the first movie, it falls into some horror cliches. Some of the dialogue is a little clunky, whether it be with some of the exposition or the comedy. While there was a good balance with its humour and scares in the first movie, Chapter 2 is a tonally unbalanced at points. The biggest issue though comes as a result as one of its biggest strengths. While it gives a lot of answers, it takes away from the feeling of the unknown and therefore much of the unsettling feeling is rather lacking. The more that is explained, the less scary it becomes. Finally, there’s a plot twist in the third act which is dated, at the very least.

Like with the first movie, the acting and character development is particularly good. Rose Byrne is believable in her part, and the movie even finds a way to bring Lin Shaye back to reprise her role of Elise, especially given that she was the standout character in the first movie. There’s also more screentime for the comic relief provided by Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson, as they are more heavily involved with the plot. The standout performance however is from Patrick Wilson, mainly because his character of Josh is now possessed by a demon, giving him the opportunity to really ham it up. He’s great, and one of my bigger complaints is that we don’t get to see as much of this throughout the movie. He really gets to shine in the third act, but I wish the descent into madness got more screentime.

James Wan’s direction once again is solid. There’s some memorable and haunting imagery, good production design, and some solid thrills. The sound mixing is superb, and Joseph Bishara’s score continues to be unnerving. It builds ominous tension over time, and you feel it mostly in the first half. While it is a more polished movie, I think the previous movie did a better job at generating the atmosphere. There are plenty of jumpscares throughout, I think they are fine, but they are a little hit or miss and aren’t nearly as effective as the last movie.

Insidious: Chapter 2 is good continuation and is almost on a similar level of the previous movie, with strong direction and good performances. It is a more polished movie and is more complete storywise, but I think the first film is slightly better if only for the atmosphere and tension it generated. Still, worth checking out if you enjoyed the first Insidious.

Insidious (2010) Review

Time: 101 Minutes
Age Rating: M
Patrick Wilson as Josh Lambert
Rose Byrne as Renai Lambert
Lin Shaye as Elise Rainier
Ty Simpkins as Dalton Lambert
Barbara Hershey as Lorraine Lambert
Leigh Whannell as Specs
Angus Sampson as Tucker
Director: James Wan

Josh and Renai move to a new house, seeking a fresh start. However, when their son, Dalton, mysteriously falls into a coma, paranormal events start occurring in the house.

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I previously watched the first three Insidious movies and I liked them. With the 5th film coming this year, I decided to go through the whole franchise beforehand. While the following movies had a mixed reaction, the first Insidious was received pretty well and was a hit. Over a decade later, I think it’s still pretty good and holds up today.

Insidious is yet another collaboration between director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell, and on the whole, the script is pretty good. Initially, much of the movie is familiar when it comes to ghosts and demon possessions. Still, it manages to make itself stand apart from similar movies. While it begins as a usual ghost story, it goes into different directions in the second half, especially when it starts getting into things like astral projection. Additionally, the strong family dynamic and likable characters help to get you invested in the story. From the beginning there is a real sense of doom which is sustained throughout the entirety of the movie. As I said it goes in different directions in the second half, and the third act is where some people might not like it. However, I like the departure it takes, and even enjoyed when some of the horror got a little cheesy. It also delivers an unexpected ending which was certainly put there to lead the way for a sequel. There is a lot of exposition of the movie, mostly from Lin Shaye’s character, which could’ve been trimmed down. It’s not necessarily a runtime issue since its only 100 minutes long and the pace is solid, but it does over explain some things.

The actors are great in their parts and help to bring their characters to life. Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne are great as the parents, and Ty Simpkins is good as the child who falls into a suspicious coma. Other actors are solid including Barbara Hershey as Wilson’s mother and a pair of paranormal investigators played by Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson. However, Lin Shaye is the standout as a psychic who comes to help the family with the paranormal activities.

James Wan delivers another well-crafted horror movie with Insidious. Interestingly, it’s a horror movie that’s PG-13 and while it easily could’ve amped up to an R rating, it achieved what it needed to here. Personally, I wasn’t scared of the movie, but nonetheless the horror was handled well. The jumpscares can be quite in your face, but they are put together well and some of them are quite clever. Most of all though, the film successfully builds up the tension and atmosphere. The desaturated colour pallet and memorable nightmarish imagery add to the tone, sense of unease and atmosphere. Finally, the instrumental score from Joseph Bishara is excellent and fits the mood of the movie well. The main theme is particularly one of the most distinct and recognisable modern day horror themes, and never fails to set me on edge and give an unsettling feeling.

Insidious is still an entertaining, tense, thrilling, greatly directed and performed supernatural horror film. I wouldn’t call it one of the best horror movies out there (even within the 2010s), but it is quite good and worth checking out if you’re a fan of the genre.

Saw (2004) Review



Time: 102 minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Sadistic violence
Leigh Whannell as Adam Stanheight
Cary Elwes as Lawrence Gordon
Danny Glover as David Tapp
Ken Leung as Detective Steven Sing
Monica Potter as Alison Gordon
Tobin Bell as John Kramer
Director: James Wan

Photographer Adam Stanheight (Leigh Whannell) and oncologist Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) regain consciousness while chained to pipes at either end of a filthy bathroom. As the two men realize they’ve been trapped by a sadistic serial killer nicknamed “Jigsaw” and must complete his perverse puzzle to live, flashbacks relate the fates of his previous victims. Meanwhile, Dr. Gordon’s wife (Monica Potter) and young daughter (Makenzie Vega) are forced to watch his torture via closed-circuit video.

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Saw was where horror director James Wan started as a filmmaker. The film was a surprise hit back in 2004, with it gaining back over 86 times its own budget, and went on to create a long running series that were huge hits at the box office. I wanted to watch all the Saw movies before the latest film, Spiral: From the Book of Saw, comes out. The first movie isn’t great by any means and has its very visible flaws, however it is still quite good.

Saw (2004)
Directed by James Wan
Shown: Cary Elwes (as Dr. Lawrence Gordon)

The movie is just over 100 minutes long, and it keeps you pretty invested from beginning to end. It’s very different from what you’d expect from a Saw movie based off its reputation, especially from the sequels. The movie doesn’t open with one of the infamous and grotesque Saw traps, instead the first 15 minutes was of the two main characters stuck in a bathroom not sure what’s happening. Indeed that’s the location where most of the movie took place, along with a lot of flashbacks. There’s not really any torture scenes in this movie, Saw is a psychological thriller, focused on mystery and tension and doesn’t focus on jump scares. Despite some of the traps that are in this movie, they are definitely more believable than what’s in the sequels. There are some traps that are pretty gruesome, but most of those moments are shown relatively briefly. The pacing of the movie and the use of the plotlines are actually well planned out, in terms of plotting it succeeds very well. It is a fairly contained movie too, with its fair share of twists and turns including the ending, which is one of the most famous horror movie endings. Having only seen a couple of the Saw sequels, it’s interesting to see how Jigsaw had been changed as a killer. While the character is definitely crazy to set up all these traps and all that, the sequels made it so that he was some kind of vigilante going after mostly bad people. However, Jigsaw’s victims in this movie don’t quite fit that same criteria. Now there are clearly some issues with the movie. There are some moments that are slightly implausible and far-fetched for sure, though I think that’s the case for each of the movies in the series. Saw also very much aims to be Se7en-esque, with the gruesome crime scenes, the serial killer, the detectives in the flashbacks, and occasionally the colour palette. It is pretty far from reaching the level of that movie but does enough to make itself its own thing.


Some of the acting was generally decent but nothing special really. Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannell do well in the lead roles, and other actors like Danny Glover, Ken Leung and Michael Emerson provide good support work.


Saw is James Wan’s first film, and this was a really solid debut for him, even if it’s pretty clear that he’s made better movies since then. The movie had pretty low budget at $1.2 million, and considering all the issues and rushes that Wan and Whannell went through making the movie, it’s impressive that the end product was as good as it turned out. It is very rough around the edges because of the lack of time and money that they had for the movie, that ended up enhancing the movie. Again, Saw does borrow a little too much from Se7en’s aesthetics, but it still establishes its own distinct style and feel that is iconic to the series. It’s great on a visual level, really gritty and sickly looking, which fits the tone of the film perfectly. Saw is known as one of the movies known for popularising the torture porn genre but the first movie in the series certainly doesn’t fit into that genre. Yes, it is violent, bloody and gruesome sometime, however it actually used those moments effectively, and don’t feel gratuitous. Even some of the most gruesome traps in this movie was shown relatively quickly. The room that the main characters are stuck in (which was also the only set in the film that had to be built) was simple but ery gritty and effective as it was. The score from Charlie Clouser fits the Saw movies really well and are excellent, from the eerie vibes throughout, to the more intense moments. With that said you do notice some issues, if not on a budget level then a directing level. Some of the frantic editing is pretty familiar and even iconic for the series but it can be very over the top and goofy most of time, especially in the instances when it spins around the room. In fact, some of the editing feels like it is from a music video. There are some moments that do feel a bit amateurish especially with regard to the camerawork, again though that’s to be expected considering the tight schedule Wan and writer Leigh Whannell were under (there were times where Wan wasn’t even able to film the shots that he wanted).


If you like horror movies, definitely check the first Saw movie out. I would never call it one of the best horror movies ever, even from the 2000s, but it is undeniably iconic and influential. Even if you’re worried about it being ‘torture porn’, don’t let that stop you, because it’s definitely not that kind of movie. It does have some problems, again the budgetary issues, some of the amateurish filmmaking and some parts of the writing. Overall though, it’s an effective and well made horror thriller that deserves to be judged on its own merits rather than be lumped in with what at least most of the sequels are.

The Invisible Man (2020) Review


The Invisible Man

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, cruelty, self-harm & domestic abuse
Elisabeth Moss as Cecilia Kass
Oliver Jackson-Cohen as Adrian Griffin
Aldis Hodge as James Lanier
Storm Reid as Sydney Lanier
Harriet Dyer as Emily Kass
Michael Dorman as Tom Griffin
Director: Leigh Whannell

The film follows Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss), who receives the news of her abusive ex-boyfriend’s (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) suicide. She begins to re-build her life for the better. However, her sense of reality is put into question when she begins to suspect her deceased lover is not actually dead.

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The Invisible Man was one of my most anticipated movies of 2020, although the concept of a remake of a classic horror monster movie seemed like it was destined to fail. There were a few reasons I was very interested in this movie however. First of all, you have Leigh Whannell directing, who showed himself to be a massive talent behind the camera with his last film Upgrade, so I knew that this movie was in good hands. Second you have Elisabeth Moss in the lead role, I haven’t seen her in a ton of movies or tb, but she’s been great in the few things I’ve watched her in. Third of all, they seemed to be modernising the story into something different, which at least showed it had potential to have a fresh and different take on the story. I was really excited for the movie, but it was actually lot better than I thought it would be.


The Invisible Man is a modern version of the original story, both of the book by H.G. Wells, and the original 1933 movie of the same name. Of all the classic horror stories, this seemed the hardest to adapt, since it’s pretty hard to make one invisible man actually scary, even though I liked the 30s movie, the titular character really wasn’t all that scary. However, Whannell and co. managed to pull it off. He definitely reworked a lot of the story to modernise it, but it works to some great effect. Although the movie features a man who it is invisible, the story is really about domestic abuse and gaslighting, and explores the traumas on an abusive relationship. That aspect was handled very well, and was probably more unsettling than the actual invisible man part. The movie can be very unnerving, and you feel paranoid throughout, just like the protagonist. Some of the concepts and ideas on paper at first sound silly, specifically the whole invisible aspect (without spoiling anything), but Whannell manages to make it work. I know that some people were a little worried about the trailers showing too much, but I can assure you there’s more to the movie than what was shown there. There’s only a couple of slight issues I had with the movie. The second act had some slow moments, even though I was invested in the movie throughout. Also, while cameras play a part in the movie, there are times where they are conveniently involved, and felt conveniently not involved at other specific points. They didn’t affect the movie too much for me however. Overall I was consistently captivated by The Invisible Man.


Elisabeth Moss is one of the best parts of this movie, she plays her part excellently. As well made as the movie is, much of the film is riding on her performance, she provides such an effective emotional centre throughout and really sells everything the main character has to endure throughout. A lot of the time she has to essentially act on her own with an invisible person, and sell it convincingly, and she definitely does that. The rest of the cast with the likes of Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman and Oliver Jackson-Cohen are good, and play their parts well enough. However, it really is Moss’s show throughout.


Leigh Whannell directed this movie excellently, and was one of the parts that made it work so well. It’s one thing to just have an invisible person as a villain messing with the main character, it’s another to make it feel a threat to the audience, and he definitely did that. The use of camera shots and movements are so effective, really making you unnerved at what you’re seeing (or rather what you’re not seeing). It’s not just seeing a seemingly invisible person throwing objects (or people) around that’s scary, it’s the lingering shots at empty rooms that really gets to you, as you’re not sure whether The Invisible Man is indeed there. The actual visual effects on the Invisible Man could’ve been really goofy, but they work greatly here. The sound design and the score by Benjamin Wallfisch are powerfully effective, escalating the tense atmosphere. There are so many sequences in The Invisible Man that are among the most memorable scenes that I’ve seen in recent horror movies.


The Invisible Man is an incredibly effective, unnerving and suspenseful horror movie, an excellent modern take on the source material. It’s very well directed by Leigh Whannell, and led by Elisabeth Moss’s powerhouse performance. I can’t wait to see Whannell direct even more movies, he’s shown himself to be a great filmmaker, especially within the horror genre. If you’re a horror fan, definitely check it out as soon as possible.

Upgrade (2018) Review

Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, horror, offensive language & content that may disturb
Logan Marshall-Green as Grey Trace
Betty Gabriel as Cortez
Harrison Gilbertson as Eron Keen
Director: Leigh Whannell

A brutal mugging leaves Grey Trace (Logan Marshall Green) paralyzed in the hospital and his beloved wife (Melanie Vallejo) dead. A billionaire inventor (Harrison Gilbertson) soon offers Trace a cure — an artificial intelligence implant called STEM that will enhance his body. Now able to walk, Grey finds that he also has superhuman strength and agility — skills he uses to seek revenge against the thugs who destroyed his life.

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Upgrade is a movie I’ve been hearing about for a while. On paper it sounded like a really silly B movie but apparently it was quite good, so I had been meaning to check it out. Upgrade more than lived up to the hype, with its simple but effective story, really impressive direction and a great leading performance by Logan Marshall Green.

Upgrade has a pretty straightforward premise: normal guy and his wife get attacked, she dies and he gets badly hurt. He receives something that makes him a killing machine and seeks to find out who killed his wife. Director Leigh Whannell also wrote the script to Upgrade and he made this simple but effective story work really well. The plot is not overcomplicated and a little simple, but its not without some depth, asking some questions about technology and man vs machine. These concepts and ideas aren’t fully explored like other sci-fi movies but its still much more than you’d expect. It even has a twist ending that I wasn’t entirely expecting, really effective way to end the story. I actually wouldn’t mind a sequel, there’s definitely a lot of potential there. The movie is an hour and 40 minutes long, and it was the right length, it doesn’t overstay its welcome and yet its long enough, with a pacing that keeps the movie moving at an adequate speed.

Logan Marshall Green has been in many movies, the ones I’ve seen being Prometheus, Devil and Spider-Man Homecoming and while he was good enough in his roles there, with Upgrade he really gets to show off his acting skills. He has to show off so many sides to his character, he had to be vulnerable, he had to be convincingly badass, he had to be funny and deadpan, he has to show some of the conflict that he has (especially near the end), he has to show all of that, and LMG absolutely handles all of this with ease. I really do hope that Upgrade will make people take more notice of him because it really showed how talented he is. Make no mistake, while at least half of the movie working is due to the direction, at least 40% of it is due to Logan Marshall Green’s performance. Performances from other actors like Betty Gabriel were also good. On another note, Simon Maiden’s voice performance as STEM (the AI chip inplanted in Logan Marshall Green’s character) is also great, a real stand out character. I guess the one criticism that I could have with this movie is that the characters are written rather thin and there’s not really much to them, but there’s more here than you’d usually expect from a movie of this sort of plot.

Upgrade is directed by Leigh Whannell, who previously directed Insidious: Chapter 3 and while I liked that movie, he showed an immense amount of talent here. For a film with a 3-5 million dollar budget, the visual style on the whole was great, with great cinematography. Upgrade is definitely set in the future but it’s also grounded in reality with some grit, so it doesn’t go full cyberpunk or anything. The action is entertaining, fast and absolutely brutal. There are times where the movie is even somewhat reminiscent of body horror movies from the 1980s. Even the camera movements are great, a stand out being how sometimes the camera follows LMG whenever STEM takes over during action scenes, tilting and moving following his movements. The score by Jed Palmer is also great.

Upgrade is one of the most surprising movies of 2018. Leigh Whannell took this simple premise and worked wonders with it, delivering a fast, original, entertaining and brutal sci-fi action flick, made even better by Logan Marshall Green’s great performance. I suggest checking it out sometime, Upgrade looks like it’s going to be somewhat of a cult classic.