So what's the problem with horror movie sequels? And no, that's not the start of a Seinfeld routine. It's a serious question... The concept of unplanned sequels is a common place for debate and often contradiction. We crave more of the characters we love and for a screenplay writer somewhere to delve further into the mythos...but as soon as said sequel is in the works, we immediately turn into pessimistic critics: "Are they gonna do it right? Is this just going to be the producers trying to make an easy buck or hold onto film rights?"
I'm as guilty of it as anyone else. How many Hannibals do we have to get before we get one film on me? There are fine lines between over-saturating the market, diluting the mythos, and stirring the pot. And despite a sequels pure intentions, it will fall into one of those three categories when all is said and done. So are there certain red flags that are associated with poor sequels?
In recent memory, one would point to the director swap. As soon as the writer/director of the original leaves, the franchise is going in the tanker. As often as I would point to this being a red flag (i.e. the Saw sequels), there are several horror franchises to the contrary. Alien to Aliens, for example, were directed by two fantastic directors, but with different visions. And I think that is the actual key. It isn't the change in director that is necessarily the problem, it's what that director is trying to do.
When directors took over the Saw franchise, they attempted to stay the course with Wan's vision. This led to subpar storytelling. We didn't see different angles or new directions, and too rarely saw substance further molded. It was just Saw over and over again, with a little extra gore for flavor. If it was all you were looking for, it succeeded, but the twists and reveals only created massive plot holes and convoluted character development.
What we see in the acclaimed and successful Alien films is completely different, and gutsy. It doesn't always work, but sometimes a balance of homage and originality is exactly what a sequel needs. Cameron took what Scott did and genetically engineered it into something more grotesque and also more beautiful. He used the same DNA helix, and just started moving proteins around. He made the film his own, while only carrying over the necessities of the original for the sequel to survive on its own and evolve into something more.
Syphon the fuel from an old car and use it to power your new engine. Sure, you needed the fuel, but now it's helping operate a new and exciting vehicle. From the previews, Insidious Chapter 3 does not appear to be taking this route. It appears to be taking the Wan-clone route. Will it lead to an entertaining film? Probably. But will it break any boundaries and stretch the mythos further? Not likely.
There have been rumblings of a Marvel-esque tie-in of recent horror icons in upcoming horror films. Could Sinister's Bagul be making some sort of cameo or establishing a hidden arc in the Insidious mythos? This would certainly be taking the series in a fascinating direction, and one that would prove this critic wrong. Time will tell if the few brave willing to take some chances continue to do so in the horror genre.