Oh boy, here it comes; the dreaded January release calendar, also known as where film comes to die. The Insidious franchise, however, was placed here to maybe pump a little life into the dead season, earning some box office revenue before Black Panther releases.
I am a fan of this franchise, usually citing it as one of the best horror franchises since the ’80s (don’t hate me). What Leigh Whannell brings to his films is something different based off of something familiar. The first Insidious is terrifying and awesome. Chapter Two is interesting (in a good way), while the third is middle of the pact. Yet, all three are acceptable so I felt confident going in to see The Last Key. What I was greeted with was…something else.
First things first: we need to throw out the damn timeline of these movies. They’re not hard to follow, yet, but give this series two or three more movies and we will have a continuity problem, ladies and gentlemen.
As we stand, the series starts with Chapter 3, moves onto 4 and then 1 and 2 take place at the same time, I think. The Last Key takes place a little after the events of Chapter Three, with Lin Shaye’s Elise living in her unaffordable house with her hapless sidekicks, Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (Whannell). Seems easy enough but we get a prologue featuring a young Elise, discovering her gift and unleashing a monster that continues to haunt the house for years to come. These small scenes were a highlight, as we were given some back story on our main character, as well as a look into her family life and why she is so damaged.
As usual, Shaye is fantastic. Taking the “hipster” approach, it’s so great to see a woman who was delegated to bit parts for so long get her long due appreciation. She has been a highlight since the first film and carries her prowess to this film. Shaye is able to make you feel actual positive vibes about her, unlike many other cinematic mediums, who are just in it for the money. She treats her subjects and colleagues with respect. It’s a small detail but one that works on many levels.
Speaking of colleagues, Tucker and Specs continue to be hilarious. These two play off each other so well, trying to impress both Elise and her nieces (we’ll get to them) with their knowledge of ghost hunting material. Whannell’s writing shines when he writes for himself, Tucker and Elise and in their scenes together, it really shows.
The film falters, however, with the inclusion of the aforementioned nieces, as well as an adult Christian, Elise’s little brother introduced in flashbacks. Character actor Bruce Davison portrays an erratic older Christian, not truly trusting his long lost sister and pleads with his daughters, Melissa (Spencer Locke) and Imogen (Caitlin Gerard) to stay away from her. This, of course, doesn’t work and the two become very interested in their aunt, even though they had just met her.
Elise is back in town because her old childhood home is being haunted and the man living there asks her for her help. This is my biggest problem with the film; it becomes unclear if anyone has lived there in the past fifty years since Elise left. It looks as though it hasn’t but with the films twist, it becomes clear that there had to have been others living there. It’s all very confusing and not focused on.
The twist, however, is decent. I can’t go into details here but what it provides is a more realistic approach to the story, instead of focusing on the more fantastical elements seen in previous installments. This provides better jump scares, some done incredibly well (without music and loud noises) and some down, well, just like every horror movie today. Something that makes a truly good horror movie is a scare that is slightly out of focus, maybe in the background somewhere, which this film has plenty of. It’s a good time and there were plenty of screams in the theater.
Insidious: The Last Key is an uneven film. It combines some excellent scares with terrific (yes, terrific) acting, all the while giving us a mediocre storyline with dropped plot elements and poor choices. It’s not a bad film; in fact, it’s one many will enjoy but it does not hold up to the rest of the franchise, especially the first two. Looking at this film with a glass half full mentality, at least the first film of January is decent and not the cesspool that we’re usually thrown in.
Insidious: The Last Key is now in theaters nationwide.