There’s a fatal flaw that’s lodged in every good horror franchise: sooner or later, their quality begins to drop exponentially. Saw was a great film, but Saw IV? What about Paranormal Activity, and each entry into that after the first? And who could forget John Carpenter’s classic Halloween, but hey…did you see Halloween III: Season of the Witch? Walking into Insidious: The Last Key, I couldn’t stop thinking about this trend. I was almost certain that I was going to experience two hours of boredom, and leave wishing I’d drank bourbon instead.
I was wrong. Sort of. Insidious: The Last Key isn’t a great movie, but it’s better – and scarier – than most horror films would be as the fourth movie in a franchise.
Insidious: The Last Key
Director: Adam Robitel
Release Date: January 5, 2018
Insidious: The Last Key follows Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) a parapsychologist who, after dealing with several monsters in the past, must now confront her own personal ghosts – literally. Rainier returns to her hometown of Five Keys, New Mexico to resolve a haunting happening in the house she grew up in. Along the way, Rainier must face her scarred past, and find the monster that has been tormenting her since she was a child.
It seems like a decent premise for a story, and, to my surprise upon entering the theater, it made for a compelling beginning as well. The prologue of The Last Key is the strongest part of the entire movie. The origins of the haunting are explored, motivation for Rainier is clearly established, and as the cherry on top, much of this introduction is well-paced and full of tense moments and legitimate scares. There are several jump scares in The Last Key, but most of them feel earned because of the thick tension established beforehand, and the clever setups and payoffs of each scare.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for every part of the film. There are a couple of good horror sequences after the prologue that incorporate false scares and play with audience expectations, but after the first half of the movie is over, these sequences become far less clever and delve into very cheap or forced scares. The final scare of the movie in particular is atrocious. What should be a fun way for the film to depart is reduced to a crappy-looking demon being thrown against a window.
The final horror sequence is also a big letdown. Elise Rainier has been tortured by this demon both in her past and in the present, and suffice it to say that their final confrontation is neither scary, smart, interesting, nor earned. It, well, kind of sucks. I was expecting a tense sequence with subtle creepy moments and a few decent scares, but these must have been too high of expectations. This is the part of the film that became incredibly boring and predictable. The Last Key started promising enough, but just fell to pieces in the final twenty minutes.
There’s also a lot of problems with the story itself. Now listen, this is a horror movie, so I’m not terribly troubled by the lack of logic, or the abundance of plot holes. However, it’s clear that Insidious: The Last Key wanted to hammer home how dealing with problems at home is terrifying, and how those demons can be the toughest and most fearsome foes. Yet The Last Key delivers this message in the most boring, minimalist way possible. Sure, there are flashbacks to Rainier’s childhood, but the ghosts and the scares in this film aren’t necessarily scaring Rainier in a manner that would frighten her in a personal way. It’s just…ghosts being spooky-scary. The main shade in particular is supposed to frighten Rainier to her core, but in the present, it only has three encounters with Rainier, and never in a way that involved how it’s scarred her entire life. I was hoping there would some personal element to the horror, given the nature of this movie, but the scares never truly go that deep.
That doesn’t mean that it was all bad though. Elise Rainier is a fun character to watch on-screen, and she carries the entire movie. Nearly every other performance (especially those of her moron helpers) feels phoned in and dull, but at least Rainier feels like a real person. Without her, I doubt that the tension would have been as palpable, or the story as – I mean, it isn’t that good, but it wouldn’t have been as interesting.
Insidious: The Last Key was okay. Decent. It could have been a lot worse, but considering the promising introduction and some excellent sequences in the first half of the film, I was actually disappointed with how tired the film gets by the second half. It isn’t unwatchable, but it isn’t exceptional. It isn’t terrible, but it could have been better. It threatens us with jubilation, but settles for satisfaction.