Director: Adam Robitel
Cast: Lin Shaye, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell, Spencer Locke, Caitlin Gerard, Josh Stewart, Kirk Acevedo, Bruce Davison
Plot: Elise (Shaye) returns to her childhood home to confront a demon from her past that may have been manipulating her for longer than she can remember.
As we hit the fourth entry in the Insidious franchise, a horror movie once crackling with imagination and originality but now descending into a predictable comfort zone, it looks like Insidious is here to stay. With the three leads, Elise Reiner and her two amusing side-kicks now set up as solid leading characters, The Last Key claps its hands together and gets on with business as usual.
With the difference of the movie spending far more time with Elise than usual, instead of telling her story through the victim character, there is an air of familiarity to Insidious’ fourth chapter. Elise gets a call that a house is being controlled by a malevolent spirit, there is a mystery drama filled with jump scares and the finale takes place in the trippy Nether area, where Elise faces off against the movie’s bad guy. If the game plan is for Insidious to prove that it can stick to a formula and still be confident for a few more sequels, then The Last Key passes with flying colours. Much like the Paranormal Activity movies, there is nothing really new to be talked about here, but the making of the film remains strong enough to survive condemning. The Last Key is a lot more entertaining than the passable third entry, writing in a creepy monster (again, the writers create a new bad guy, rather than falling back on an old faithful – bravo!), and throwing enough new elements in the mix to keep it going. For a long time, The Last Key actually toys with its formula, without quite breaking it. There are a few strong twists buried in this story that stem from playing with the perceptions of Insidious. Another good story beat sees Lin Shaye’s Elise come up against living bad guys as well as dead ones, so at one point, you are genuinely unsure where the next jump scare or obstacle is going to come from. Sceptics will argue that the first Insidious was miles scarier (true!), but that doesn’t mean that The Last Key doesn’t boast enough moments to make it worth watching. One prolonged scare in a ventilation shaft may be predictable, but it still works, because of how drawn-out the build-up is. Every second in that shaft feels like an eternity and new-time director, Robitel, holds the moment for a patience-testing time. The pay-off is little more than a good jump to the system, but that’s what the audience are paying for. The Last Key only really falls off the rails in the final act. The problem with sticking to the formula is that when we get to the Nether, a place that relies off of creative and unpredictable writing to make it truly work, the story often becomes unstuck. The last two movies have been strong on visuals, but painfully weak on writing. Here the monster is defeated with the “power of love and kindness”. I can already feel you shuddering.
Final Verdict: There is enough here to earn Insidious staying power, but the heights of James Wan’s direction are long gone.