Let’s start off the New Year by diving deeper into the Further!
Since she was a child, Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) had the ability to talk to ghosts, for which she suffered abuse at the hands of her father. One night at home, when locked down in the basement, she came across a door and heard a mysterious voice from the other side. Elise decided to unlock and open the door, unleashing terror upon her family. Elise left home and grew up to be a parapsychologist, who joined forces with two eccentric Internet-popularized ghost hunters, Tucker and Specs. Cut to present day (the film is set in 2010), Elise is retired from her practice, but agrees to investigate a case that just happens to be taking place at her childhood home. Accompanied by Tucker and Specs, Elise will dive back into the realm of “The Further”—a realm where souls of the dead roam—to confront not only the spirits that haunt it, but also of her own personal demons.
Insidious: The Last Key is the fourth film in the Insidious series (second by continuity, following Chapter 3.). The quality of the Insidious series, up to this point, has remained consistently good, which is something most trilogies have failed to accomplish. To be fair, none of the sequels have equaled the first entry, but they were still interesting, and gave some good development to the background of “The Further.” In short, it is a fun film series, and a staple in modern horror filmmaking. Sadly, though, this last entry is less than stellar.
The main problem with The Last Key is that it feels less like an Insidious film and more like a drama with horror elements. It’s not to say that this change is unwelcome, but it feels like two different styles are battling for attention throughout the runtime. At one moment, Elise and her team are hunting for ghosts, and then suddenly the film shifts attention to Elise trying to reconnect with her family. There are so many twists and turns in this film that it can be a bit hard to follow.
Strangely, this film lacks suspense, something that James Wan mastered in directing the first two films, as did Leigh Whannell in helming Chapter 3. Looking back at the first film, the story and characters were relatively simple, and not much knowledge was needed to follow the plot. The story in The Last Key has too much background information and contrivances, and as a result, the scares suffer. With that said, the film also suffers from the same trap that most prequels suffer from: trying to tie up all the loose ends. Unless you have seen the first film, you won’t be able to recognize the connections.
Another problem with The Last Key is the duo of Tucker and Specs. Looking back, their comic relief was of the weakest elements of Insidious: Chapter 3. Their humorous scenes felt unnecessary, but at least they were not in the film for long. In The Last Key, Tucker and Specs are in for more than 50% of the movie, and their comedic scenes are genuinely hard to sit through, especially since they spend most of that time trying to impress girls. Tired clichés like this severely lower the quality of The Last Key and keep it from being unique.
While I won’t recommend this film, I will be honest and say it does have some positives. The filmmakers should be given credit for giving development to the character of Elise. Lin Shaye has played the role excellently in the previous films, and her performance is even better here as the main focus of the film. There is also one moment towards the beginning of the third act where Elise is going through suitcases while keeping an eye out for ghosts. It is genuinely tense and is the closest that this film gets to resembling the first Insidious. Despite these positives, the film as a whole is underwhelming, and by the end, I didn’t feel like anything important happened.
Insidious: The Last Key is a rather less stellar entry in a relatively decent franchise. Despite yet another great performance from Lin Shaye, the film’s tone is inconsistent, the comic relief is cringe worthy, and the story ends up relying on the usual modern horror movie tropes. If this is the last entry in the series, the filmmakers should avoid making the same mistake Elise makes in each film, and just retire the series.