Films / Horror / Reviews

Cheap thrills and schlock run rampant in Insidious: The Last Key

I’m a big fan of the first Insidious directed by James Wan. It’s a unique horror film that includes demonic spirits with unique looks and presents a story that is surprsingly gripping. The thrills are fun and the film struck fear into me at the time. It’s unsettling, too. Insidious: The Last Key is the fourth film in a series that didn’t necessarily need a sequel, let alone four. And it’s made even more apparent with Last Key that this series has overstayed its welcome and become more about quantity than quality.

In director Adam Robitel‘s take, we’re introduced to a home in Five Keys, New Mexico circa 1953. A young Elise — played by the best actor in the film Ava Kolker — is just discovering her abilities to speak with spirits. Her father (Josh Stewart), a drunkard and someone clearly dealing with PTSD, rejects the notion that his daughter can see ghosts. He tries to beat the gift out of her using a cane. Eventually, the film snaps us out of present-day Elise’s dream, and almost immediately she (Lin Shaye) gets another assignment. This time it’s to uncover the spirits at her old home which is now owned by Ted Garza (Kirk Acevedo), who used his entire life savings to purchase the haunted house.

It would be foolish of me to expect a horror film of Get Out caliber. Heck, even Happy Death Day was a better ride than The Last Key. This film is attempting to dive deeper into Elise, who’s quite honestly the only character they can retain. The recurring actors from the initial chapter were smart to not come back after the second film. But I digress.

The script — written by Leigh Whannell who also plays Elise’s sidekick/coworker Specs — failed to produce any sort of bearable writing. Wooden dialogue was the norm for each actor sans Ava Kolker, who seemed to be the only one willing to add character to her role. She’s quite possibly the only positive in The Last Key. While the dialogue fell flat, so did the humor. The comic relief often times comes via Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs. Both are given jokes that are called back to throughout the film. However, rolling jokes only work if they’re funny — which these weren’t. I don’t care that both characters have a weird obsession with Elise’s nieces because humor to those two doesn’t comes naturally. I don’t have enough fingers on both my hands to count the times I shook my head and sighed.

But let’s be real: The Last Key knows its demographic. This isn’t a clever horror experience, even though it tries real hard and fails. This is a film for those who care less about substance and more about cheap thrills coupled with a predictable storyline. I’d be lying if I were to say it didn’t work. My theater erupted in laughter with each bit of on-screen schlock, they were scared and expressed it via screams and “Oh ****, this is lit!” I just couldn’t agree with the reception and had to pinch myself, asking if we were watching the same film. Each thrill was predictable, and it didn’t help that the film would tease me three times in a row before a lackluster scare. One of the worst offenses was during what would’ve been the highlight scary moment of the film. When Keyface (Javier Botet) stuns one of Elise’s nieces (Spencer Locke), it begins to crawl towards her, stops and then speeds up. It’s the set-up for a perfectly freaky moment when… We cut away to a daylight scene outside the house and into Elise and Co’s RV. Then we’re transported back inside the Five Keys home, but the damage was done. Why create such a jarring sequencing of shots during a peak horror moment? For shame, Robitel.

Clearly, the film circles around actor Lin Shaye, but I can’t understand the appeal. Her role was just fine in the first Insidious, but Whannell thinks there’s depth in what has become a shallow series. Shaye sounds as if she’s reading her script throughout The Last Key which drowns out every bit of emotion. Interactions are whatever the opposite of free-flowing is. Her supporting cast had me hoping that the Key demon would just do away with the entire house. Actor Kirk Acevedo delivered what is a most forgetful performance as a man driven insane. He’s generic, as are the rest of the actors on this bill.

Up to that this paragraph, I was just shy of 730 words. That’s more than Insidious: The Last Key deserves, and it goes without saying that this is yet again another lazy effort in a series that should have stopped in 2010. This film doesn’t demand your attention to anything other than your watch. But, for what it’s worth, it throws back to Insidious, and I guess that was cool until the demon used in that scene looked like a horribly obvious puppet.

I was treated to an advanced screening of this film thanks to Sly Fox and Universal Pictures. ❤

Insidious: The Last Key is rated PG-13, runs one hour and 43 minutes and releases on Jan. 5, 2018.


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