It seems like it has become something of a tradition to open up the new year with a horror movie. Needless to say, nearly all of the first weekend of the year January horror films have ranged from mediocre to horrendous. For 2018, the horror movie opening the new year is the fourth entry is the Insidious franchise, Insidious: The Last Key. The Insidious franchise has surprisingly maintained a steady level of quality. The series has always been a cut above average horror franchises but a cut below great horror film franchises like The Conjuring series. None are outstanding but each has their moments (particularly James Wan’s first entry).
Insidious: The Last Key (much like the third film) is a prequel to the original movie and has series regular Elise Rainer (played by Lin Shaye) confronting her past and encountering a demon from her childhood.
The good news is Insidious: The Last Key is not the horrendous train wreck that we’ve seen open the new year in year’s past (like The Devil’s Due and Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones) but it also doesn’t live up to previous entries in the series and nor is it scary enough to recommend. Insidious: The Last Key is dull to watch with its big saving grace being the performance of Lin Shaye as Elise Rainer.
It is fair to say most mainstream modern horror films don’t typically focus on characters outside of teenagers. If the main character is an adult, then they are likely married with kids. If there is an old man or old woman, they are typically a creepy character and not normally the centerpiece. It was refreshing to watch Insidious: The Last Key with a narrative focused on an older woman dealing with the abuse of her past. Lin Shaye has been one of the best parts of the franchise and she really gets a chance to shine here with a very good performance. This could have very easily just been a rehash of the first film but instead, screenwriter Leigh Whannell smartly develops her character and explores Elise Rainer’s character in a mature fashion. The pain of abuse lingers for Elise Rainer and this movie is about her confronting that.
I wish I could say the rest of the movie was worth the time investment. The initial setup for Insidious: The Last Key builds some tension and there are a couple starling moments here and there. But, after the first third of the 103 minute running time, the movie loses steam. Insidious: The Last Key shows too much of the demon lurking in the dark (which admittedly is an interesting design) and becomes less scary as a result. There are a couple narrative twists mixing real-world horror and spirt horror that was surprising to me. Still, the movie isn’t very good at balancing the two and quite often feels like two separate movies.
This also introduces too many new characters too late in the story to really establish them or develop their relationships. While these new characters that are close to Elise are an interesting angle for the story to go, the movie fails to do anything interesting with them.
Another problem with Insidious: The Last Key is a problem that has plagued some of the entries since the original film, “the Further”. The Further is the dimension in which the demons and spirits reside, the Upside Down world if you will. The Further just simply isn’t scary. The Further almost always looks like an overproduced low rent haunted house theme park. Like some of the other entries, this spends the final third act in “the further” which takes the already dwindling scares down even further. Director Adam Robitel really misses an opportunity to make an impact by trying something new with the further.
By the end, The Last Key loops back to the original film in a predictable but satisfying manner. It would be wise to end the series here and avoid ending on a truly horrible flat note (as the series really doesn’t deserve a Halloween: Resurrection level of bad to end on). As it stands Insidious: The Last Key isn’t really a good movie but isn’t egregious nor insulting either. The Last Key missed the mark and is a non-offensive mediocre horror film. The story has seemingly run its course and not even actress Lin Shaye could save another entry in the series. I think even fans of the series will find very little to love here as opposed to the previous three films. Insidious: The Last Key is hopefully the last Insidious and at the very least tries to tell a mature and more thoughtful story than most mediocre horror films. Tried, at least.