Insidious: The Last Key
by Hope Madden
The Insidious franchise—like most horror series—began missing a step about two films in. The fourth installment, Insidious: The Last Key, starts off with promise, though.
Thanks in large part to a heartbreaking performance from Ava Kolker, the newest Insidious opens with a gut punch of an origin story.
By Episode 3, we’d abandoned the core family of the first two films to follow ghost hunters Elise (Lin Shaye), Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (Leigh Whannell, who also writes the series). As this film opens, we glimpse the beginnings of Elise’s gift, the troubles it brings, and the demon she unwittingly released into the world.
Though the minor characters are full-blown clichés, director Adam Robitel (The Taking of Deborah Logan) and his young actors create a compelling opening.
Can Insidious: The Last Key deliver on that promise?
Is it the tedious jump-scare-athon with none of the exquisite delivery we’ve come to expect from James Wan (director of the original Insidious, and producer here)? Is it the mid-film move from spectral thriller to police procedural and back? Is it the creepy attention Elise’s goofball sidekicks pay to her young and pretty nieces?
Or is the problem that the whole cool sequence from the trailer—you know, with Melanie Gaydos and all the ghosts coming out of the jail cells?—is missing from the movie.
Yes—it’s all that and more. The film is a jumbled mess of backstory and personal demons, clichés and uninspired monsters. All of this is shouldered by the veteran Shaye, who is, unfortunately, no lead.
Shaye has proven herself to be a talented character actor in her 40+ years in film, often stealing scenes out from under high-paid leads. (Please see her in Kingpin and There’s Something About Mary, she’s genius.) But she doesn’t have the magnetism to carry a film, and The Last Key feels that much more untethered and pointless for the lack.
Everything runs out of steam at some point. Here’s hoping this franchise has run out of doors to open.