Film Review: Insidious: The Last Key

A last gasp.
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Northeasterners considering a jaunt to the movie theatre this weekend will have to brave unfriendly temperatures—and, oh, the dreaded “bomb cyclone”—if they want to see the latest installment in Blumhouse’s Insidious franchise. Horror hounds would do better to stay bundled up indoors with some microwave popcorn and a home-video rewatch of the first film. Though, really, that assessment would hold steady even if it were an unseasonable 70 degrees and sunny. Insidious: The Last Key: It’s just not that good.

Ghost hunter Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) and her oft-bumbling helpers Specs (writer Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson)—“She’s psychic, we’re sidekick”—are back to put the hurt on some more paranormal beasties, only this time with a twist: The demon in question is haunting Elise’s childhood home. Only a matter of time before any horror franchise goes into backstory mode, right? What we’re looking at here, seen in flashback, is a cartoonishly villainous father (Josh Stewart) who beats young Elise (Ava Kolker, later Hana Hayes) whenever she refuses to deny that she sees ghosts. Decades down the line, Elise must return to the house to defeat a demon (Javier Botet) she unintentionally let loose all those years ago.

Seems pretty basic, right? The sort of story that, though generic, could result in a solid enough movie if handled well. Alas, then, that Whannell—who’s written all the Insidious movies and directed the third installment—packs his overbaked script full of unnecessary detours and padding. (That subplot where Specs and Tucker try to woo Elise’s nieces? Woof.)

The Last Key’s most impressive feat is that it manages to be so unnecessarily convoluted while still offering next to nothing in terms of dramatic payoff. It’s clear that Whannell, director Abam Robitel and franchise shepherds James Wan, Oren Peli and Jason Blum want to keep the “red door” that haunts Rainier from the other side metaphorically open for future installments. Which, hey, is fine: Insidious is a franchise. Nothing wrong with keeping it going as long as the movies are good. But if individual movies don’t offer a satisfying beginning, middle and end—as The Last Key decidedly does not—then what’s the point?

It’s not all bad. Shaye is, as ever, game as Rainier, and there’s one particular set-piece involving suitcases that genuinely delivers a spark of terror. Other than that, it’s one hour and 47 minutes of cheap jump scares and dull grinding of gears. And that does not a good horror film make.

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