Director – Adam Robitel
Cast – Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Kirk Acevedo, Caitlin Gerard, Spencer Locke, Josh Stewart, Tessa Ferrer, Aleque Reid, Ava Kolker, Pierce Pope, Bruce Davison
Release Year – 2018
Reviewed by John of the Dead
The fourth installment to the series, which also serves as the second prequel, Insidious: The Last Key is not a film I was excited for. While the third installment (Insidious: Chapter 3) was the scariest for me, I was not sold on the trailer for this film. It didn’t look bad, but it looked like a step down from a film I surprisingly enjoyed (I wasn’t a fan of Insidious: Chapter 2). However, when I learned that this effort was directed by Adam Robitel my interest was piqued. Robitel’s debut film The Taking of Deborah Logan is a winner, so I figured this effort would at least keep me engaged. After viewing this piece I can say that Insidious: The Last Key is a mixed bag. There are times when the direction is brilliant, and I have loads of appreciation for what writer Leigh Whannell did with Lin Shaye’s character Elise. However, pacing issues and the story stalling at moments when it should have been shining kept me from enjoying this as much as I wanted to.
Ever since her childhood, notable psychic Elise Rainier has lived with the guilt of accidentally freeing a demon that ultimately killed a loved one and has taunted her ever since. When she receives a phone call from a man experiencing supernatural happenings in the very home she grew up in, she must confront her past to defeat a demon that has been lying in wait for half a century.
The story kicks off with some deep insight into the life that Elise ran away from. Ever since childhood she has been gifted with the ability to interact with the dead. This becomes a curse for her when her unbelieving loved ones are left in fear. It’s like they know she’s right, they just want her to never bring it up. The idea of sending her to the childhood home, a sight a painful memories also stemming from an abusive father, isn’t something new to the genre, yet I appreciate seeing it in this franchise.
Whannell’s story takes place in both the past and the present, with consistent revelations from the past that will affect the present day. It turns out Elise’s childhood home’s secrets were buried much deeper and are more sinister than she expected. Of course, an Insidious film wouldn’t be right if it didn’t involve Specs and Tucker – Elise’s right-hand doofuses. It’s also cool to see writer Leigh Whannell portray Specs. However, this is the first time I found Specs and Tucker to not have a positive impact on the film. They didn’t take away from it, but their jokes were too frequently paced and lacked luster aside from one failed kiss that had me laughing in my seat. I was also disappointed to see a few wasted characters. There is at least one supporting character that could have had a bigger role, which would have furthered a critical dramatic element for the film.
As far as the story goes the true spectacle is what is done with Elise. She has always been a loner and someone who lacks a family. Learning of the family she once had adds a somber tone to the life she has lived. It is comforting to see her embrace family in this piece as it adds to her humanity. She was always selfless, but now she is more human than ever. She is pushed further in this film than she is in her three previous showings. From one emotional extreme to the other we watch as she gruelingly faces a demon that left her with a life of regret. Combine this with the troubling revelations associated with her family and we have a tormented soul who had to fight inner demons for decades. I loved learning this as it added to the strength of her character. Simpy put, Elise Rainier could be the most badass woman in horror right now.
The direction from Robitel is about what I expected – it’s visually stimulating. I loved the cinematography, especially during the extremely low-lit scenes. There are moments where the protagonist is engulfed in darkness with only a small flashlight as the light source and these scenes are captivating. His horror is fair, with some decent jolts here and there. I can’t say I ever felt goosebumps, but it is obvious Robitel is someone here to stay in the genre. I dug the look of the demon, but sadly never found him to be very scary. He is portrayed by the incredible Javier Martel, who’s genetic condition leaves him with a frail body frame that often leaves viewers assuming CGI was used – it wasn’t. He achieves positive acting performances from everyone involved, with Lin Shaye’s character of course stealing the show. I was also glad to see Josh Stewart (The Collector, The Collection) in the film. He portrays her father. The lack of good jolts may be a downer, but Robitel’s execution makes for a good amount of horror. His sophomore film may not be as solid as his debut, but then again this was written by someone else. I am looking forward to the work he delivers in the future.
Overall, Insidous: The Last Key is a fair addition to the series. It is a step down from Insidious 3 but that is no reason to skip this film. It could have been scarier, but Robitel should do enough to keep your interest.