Insidious: The Last Key – Movie Review – An unimaginative horror sequel.

The fourth instalment in the Insidious franchise is here. I have plenty of history with this franchise and have been very critical of the films in the past. Stay tuned for my retrospective review and analysis of the first three films coming soon. As for now, let me share my thoughts on the latest film.

Insidious: The Last Key focuses on Parapsychologist Elise (Lin Shaye) as she faces her most personal haunting yet, one that is taking place in her old family home.

Allow me to get straight to the point. This film is bad. It simply doesn’t deserve to be listed within the same franchise as the previous films. It’s so dull and the structure of the narrative is very poor. The film opens with one of the longest dream sequences I think I’ve ever seen, it takes up at least the first ten to fifteen minutes of the film. It’s supposed to serve as flashback, but that leads me to my next issue. The story utilises the flashback technique a number of times and it’s done in weak way each time. I was under the impression this story was being written as the film was shooting. I have no proof of that, this is merely just speculation on my behalf, but it truly does feel as if it were made up on the spot. The story does attempt to continue the familial element that each Insidious film has. Some of the ideas they had for it were actually good, and could’ve been interesting if they weren’t buried underneath a myriad of bland horror conventions.

Elise is front and centre of this story and in the past Lin Shaye’s performance has always been one of the positive aspects of the films. She really tries here, it’s clear to see. When she does get a couple moments that focus on her family relationships, she does deliver a believable and emotional reaction to the situations. In those scenes she does shine, but she is given so much weak and expository dialogue that she cannot be blamed for how her overall performance comes across. The strongest performance in the entire film came from Ava Kolker as a younger Elise. She portrayed a very convincing young girl, dealing with the threat of her abusive father, who attempts to beat her special connection with the dead out of her.

The scariest thing about this film is the script. The worst aspect of every Insidious film is the bad attempts at humour, so what does this film do? It doubles down on that type of humour. The film actually attempts to make the audience laugh, more than it attempts to scare them. It brings back the two most annoying characters in the franchise, and gives them more screen time than they’ve ever had before. Those characters are Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (Leigh Whannell), Elise’s paranormal investigative side kicks. They were awful. As was the dialogue that was written for them. It was painful dialogue, the type to leave me wincing in my seat thinking who on earth wrote this script. The answer to that is Leigh Whannell, the writer of all the previous films. The fact that he wrote this film just makes it all the more disappointing that it’s turned out this way. The humour that he has written is awkward and severely cringe inducing. Like literally. The way in which Specs and Tucker act around and towards some of the younger female characters in this film, is really not as funny as it’s supposed to be, in fact it’s not funny at all. To be honest it just comes off as sort of weird and creepy, creepier than any demon in the film. Another thing the script does is at the halfway point of the film, introduce two new female characters. We literally are given no information about them, except who they are related to. Aside from that we know nothing about them, yet they are forced into the story so they can be featured in the big sequence towards the end. Why would the audience care about these two girls they were just introduced to, and know nothing about? The film tries to generate a sense of peril surrounding the well-being and survival of these girls, but it just falls flat because no connection has been established between the audience and these girls in the first place.

Adam Robitel directed this instalment and maybe he had great intentions, but it just doesn’t translate to the film. I consider some of his direction to just be lazy filmmaking. He barely attempts to frighten or scare the audience. Whenever he finally does try, it’s either something you can predict or just a sudden scene change with a loud noise, that ends up being just a cheap attempt to startle the audience. There’s a jump scare moment in a police station that so blatantly copies, one of the most memorable jump scares from the first film. It doesn’t take it’s time to build up the suspense like Wan did in the original film, it just rushes to the jump scare and it’s ineffective because of it. At another point in the film, a short scene from the first film is used and then superimposed over the top of that frame, is the face of a demon to create a half assed jump scare that wasn’t present in that same scene from the original film. Once again as I said before, it’s just lazy. The main antagonist, Key Face (yeah they have really named him that) was shown far too often to be freighting, although I sort of liked the design of the demon, it would’ve worked much better if they kept it mostly hidden. There is one sequence that was effective. It focused on the character in the foreground, whilst in the blurred background you can see Key Face approaching slowly. This generated a mild level of suspense and that’s pretty much as good as it got in this film in terms of creative scares, aside from one other sequence involving suitcases which was fairly inventive.

There’s a couple other things that bothered me as an admirer of this franchise. This film tries to tie itself into the first film in a very uninspired and pointless way, that felt so contrived. Also this is just a minor thing, but the title annoys me, because it’s named “The Last Key”, yet there is no aspect in the story that revolves around a final key of some kind.

Insidious: The Last Key is an uninspired effort to continue a horror franchise, not because there’s a great story to tell, but simply because the studio wants to make some more money. The film lacks suspense, scares and even a coherent narrative structure. As the for the script, story and it’s attempts at comedy, it’s utterly painful and boring to sit through.

⭐️⭐️

(2 Stars Out of 5)

-T. Graham.

Insidious: The Last Key – Starring Lin Shaye, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell, Spencer Locke and Hana Hayes.

Directed by Adam Robitel.

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