Insidious: The Last Key Review
Lin Shaye is back as the demon and ghost fighting Elise in this sequel to a prequel.
Adam Robitel enters the Insidious franchise ring but shies away from the potential to take the story into darker and spookier territory, giving us some great ideas that are never fully realised.When the first instalment of the Insidious franchise was released back in to 2010 it received a fairly positive response with its reliable jump scares and cartoonish demons. Directed by James Wan and written by Leigh Whannell, Insidious told that ever so familiar story of a young child whose spirit has been taken by an evil demon, but with a bit of a twist and less following down the well trodden religious path. In place of a priest we had Elise (Lin Shaye) a psychic who ventures into a place she calls ‘the Further’ in order to save the day. Three years later the duo returned with a sequel Insidious: Chapter 2 - this time focusing on the father of the son from the first film but who’s still in need of having his soul saved. Then in 2015 we were given a prequel to the first two films, but this time directed by writer Leigh Whannell, with the imaginatively titled Insidious: Chapter 3 which saw Elise reluctantly helping out a family in which the daughter had been singled out by a creepy old man ghost. So where else is there to go, considering that Elise was removed from this earthly plane at the end of Chapter 1 and returned as a celestial being in Chapter 2.
Well, how about a sequel to the prequel (for those so inclined to watch the franchise in order: 3, 4, 1, 2)? Set in New-Mexico during the early 1950s the opening of Insidious: The Last Key functions to shed light on Elise Rainier’s childhood and her already strong psychic ability. With plenty of new souls to talk to thanks in part to the death row prison that is right next door, Elise is able to flex her psychic muscles regularly much to the disapproval of her father Gerald (Josh Stewart). Working as a prison guard Gerald seems more than happy to dole out the discipline at home as well as work in spite of his wife Audrey's (Tessa Ferrer) pleas for him to calm down. Determined to quell Elise’s claims of being able to speak to ghosts and ghouls her father punishes her by locking her in the basement, a punishment that sees Elise unknowingly release something dark into the world. This early set up actually works quite well and sets the tone up nicely. There’s the usual jump scares punctuated by the music but this opening is solid and it’s a shame that the rest of the film failed to follow suit.
The film cuts to 2010 and Elise is now living and working with her two awkward and geeky accomplices in the spiritual crime fighting business, Specks (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson). A phone call from man who has recently purchased the old Rainer family home forces Elaine to confront her own demons and return to New-Mexico to help Ted Garza (Kirk Acevedo) rid his house of unwanted ghoulies. Armed with a sort of hi-tech command centre on wheels (a kitted out RV), mini cameras and what can only be described as an über boom microphone the team begin their investigations in Elise’s childhood home, which for some reason still has all their old furniture. It’s not long before things lurking in the shadows start moving and strange images are being picked up on camera. As Elise and her ghost-busting duo delve further into the depths of this creepy house they realise that things aren’t quite what they seem. Why is there a storm room in the basement and just who is the creepy dead girl roaming around? Flash backs to Elise’s teenage years help fill in some of the gaps and the reunion with her two nieces, Imogen (Caitlin Gerard) and Melissa (Spencer Locke), help towards bringing all the elements that have been set up in the first and second third together in the film’s finale battle with the dark force in charge of all the red doors.
Director Adam Robitel takes on this fourth instalment leaving Whannell to the writing and acting and Wan to producing. It’s a shame because the main central story line would actually make for a good dark thriller. But somewhere along the way it seems that anything and everything was thrown into the mix for this film which culminates in a weird mix of ideas. The various story arcs that are shoe horned in never get full explanations and by the time the credits role, you’re left with more questions than answers. Nothing is given a chance to be developed in full. There are some good ideas here though, that had the potential to be really chilling and creepy, and that’s what is so frustrating. It’s predictable from the get go with those heavily relied upon jump scares visible from a mile off. There is no steady tension building which as a result removes a sense of threat or urgency. We know that Elise is going to live - she has to do Chapter 1 - so there needed to be something more (than what there is) for the audience to be invested in.
Some interesting ideas but very poorly executed
The only real reason this film is worth seeing is because of Lin Shaye's Elise. It’s not often that an older female actor gets the spotlight and is fortunate enough to be part of a now four film franchise. Shaye’s Elise is in no way going to win any awards but she is enjoyable to watch and with a film that offers so little, I’ll take what I can get. While the two sidekicks, Tucker and Specks, offer poorly written comedic relief (very few of the lines land and most play up the inability to talk to women geeky stereotype) and play slightly creepy and sleazy leeches towards the two nieces, Shaye plays her part straight without going over the top. The nieces, Imogen and Melissa, get very little development and are only in the film towards the end, but one can hasten a guess that they were implemented as a way to continue the franchise should those movie execs ever feel the need to milk this cow dry.
I can imagine, based on my cinema experience, that Insidious: The Last Key will be hugely popular with younger, teenage audiences and based on the number of actual genuine screams, those none too familiar with horror film formulas. At a fairly decent running time of 1 hour 43 minutes it felt a lot longer in places with not a lot of anything going on. With films like this, that are in no way or shape serious, you expect a certain level of over-the-topness because let’s face it, that’s their appeal. They can get away with being ridiculous but for some reason this film felt constricted and restrained which combined with various plot holes and under developed storylines made Insidious: The Last Key very disappointing.
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