Horror movies have always been a hit not only among adults but also children alike. Perhaps this penchant originates from the human tendency to equally fear and fancy the unknown. In the recent years, filmdom continues to be graced with Horror films that have turned into long-running series, further investigating not only the unknown but also the deeper meanings and especially origins of such characters and circumstances that animate them.
For this issue’s contributors column, we are featuring Caillou Pettis’s review of the latest installment to the Supernatural Horror film series Insiduous, which began in 2010, followed by a sequel, 2013’s Chapter 2; and two prequels, 2015’s Chapter 3 and this year’s The Last Key.
*Caillou Pettis is a Calgary-born film critic, actor, director, and writer. He reviews films, old and new.
Insidious: The Last Key (A Film Review)
I’ve been a fan of the now long-running film series Insidious ever since the first installment was released eight years ago. But, with Adam Robitel’s Insidious: The Last Key, the franchise may have finally run out of the creative vibes that made each episode so amazing.
A prequel to 2010’s Insidious, the movie that started it all, The Last Key follows Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye), a well-trusted and experienced parapsychologist.
She receives a disturbing phone call one day from a man who tells her that he believes his house has seen some paranormal activities. In a desperate plea for assistance, he asks Rainier to pay him a clinical visit in hopes of driving the evil spirits away. However, to her horror, she realizes that the haunted house in question is actually her scarring childhood home.
With the help of her two fearless paranormal assistants, Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), Rainier embarks on her journey to the home she once lived in, ready to confront demons from the past. Upon her arrival, she discovers terrifying secrets about the entities haunting the place. Against the worrisome odds, Rainier and company must destroy an extremely dangerous spirit that roams the halls.
Let me just say this right off the bat, Shaye is easily the best thing about The Last Key. Reprising her role from the previous Insidious films, she is again riveting; and given how prominently the character is featured, and how personal the story is to Rainier, Shaye delivers her best performance of the series.
Sadly, the same cannot be said for the rest of the cast. There were some truly cringe-worthy moments scattered throughout. A couple of lines of dialogue in the film just did not feel right in a film like this. One of the film’s main characters, Specs, jokes how the team’s paranormal RV that they use to travel should be named the “Winnebaghost.” When this line of dialogue was spoken, the theatre felt completely empty, as if everybody in the audience at that moment cringed. If they did, then they are not alone.
Whannell portrays Specs as aforementioned, but he also serves as the film’s screenwriter. Additionally, he directed the previous film in the franchise Insidious: Chapter 3. He definitely knows the characters of this series considerably well, and the best aspect of his involvement with The Last Key is his character development with Rainier. Chapter 3 was, up until The Last Key, my least favorite of the series; but that being said, it remains an exceptionally creepy film with some great tension.
Since this film is a prequel to the first Insidious film, references, secrets, and connections to it are inevitable. The Last Key handles this in a poor manner, unfortunately. One of the scenes in the third act of the film was obviously there just to tie this film with the first one. It felt absurd and rushed, and, perhaps the best way that they could have tied this film with Insidious was to include story elements from that film. However, instead of doing this, they chose to quickly tie everything together by showing scenes from Insidious in a timespan of about thirty seconds, rendering haphazard results.
My main issue with almost every Insidious film previous was the film’s strange choice of humor. When you really think about it, attempts at humor simply does not belong in this kind of film that deals with abusive families, satanic demons, and paranormal activity. However, in previous installments though, the humor, while annoying, did not necessarily distract you completely from the story. In The Last Key though, the attempts at humor did bug me. I saw this film in a theatre that was pretty packed, full of people who seemed eager to watch the film, like myself. But whenever a character said something that was intended to be funny, there was not even a slight chuckle that could be heard anywhere throughout the crowd, including myself.
The scenes involving Rainier’s abusive family relationships as a young child were easily the most captivating in this picture. Those sequences, while quite limited, were extremely emotional, and I felt deep sympathy for Rainier. It is just that the film chooses only to explore it a handful of times, then completely ignore it.
This unfortunately does feel like the only Insidious film in which the horror elements did not scare me nearly at all. There was only one scene towards the end of the second act that actually had true tension and was filmed excellently. Yes, there are plenty of horror-related scenes, but they are mainly jump scares, which got on my nerves a little bit.
I did, however, like the big twist involving the film’s main entity, and it took me quite off-guard. It was excellently done and added exceptionally more to the story, which was great and surprising.
Ultimately, Insidious: The Last Key boils down to only one remarkable aspect—that is, the amazing performance of Lin Shaye. The rest of the film is a tired and uninspired attempt at scaring viewers by relying solely on jump scares. Overall, this is the most disappointing film in the Insidious franchise yet.
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