Insidious: The Last Key, Review: Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson return to battle demons in the latest entry into the Insidious series.
Insidious: The Last Key review by Kat Hughes.
2017 saw the horror genre go from strength to strength, films such as Get Out, Raw, and It proved that mainstream audiences still like to be scared, meaning that 2018 cinema screens will surely be filled with all manner of spooky things. The first such film to emerge is Insidious: The Last Key, the fourth film within the Insidious franchise. The first film, written by Leigh Whannell and directed by his Saw collaborator James Wan, was a smash success, introducing us to parapsychologist Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) and her helpers, Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), as the tried to help the terrified Lambert family. The first sequel – Insidious Chapter Two – stuck with Elise as she tried once more to help the Lambert family, then the third film skipped back to a case before the Lambert’s, which now leads us to the setting for the current outing.
Set between the events of Insidious 3 and Insidious, the story joins Elise as she is called to help with a case that is happening in her old childhood home. Being back in the homestead doesn’t bring back the happy memories as one would imagine as Elise’s upbringing was anything but idyllic, and she must battle her own personal demons before she can get to work on the supernatural demon that has been tormenting generations.
As a mainstream horror, Insidious: The Last Key does what it sets out to do; there are plenty of drawn-out scare sequences, and plenty of the expected jump-scares and mis-directions. That is however, also its problem, it’s all things that we have seen before. What set apart Insidious from other modern horrors was that it was a refreshing throw-back to the likes of Poltergeist et al. Now, with The Conjuring, Annabelle, Sinister and more around, we’ve just seen too many haunted houses recently. The threat level is also diluted considerably when you know whereabouts this story fits into the overall timeline – as much as this one pushes Shaye’s Elise into the spotlight, we know she’s going to be fine as we’ve seen her in the other films which chronologically come later.
Lin Shaye though, is the element that saves Insidious: The Last Key from flat-lining. Her performance is captivating and it has worked having Elise slowly but surely make her way to the epicentre of the story. Shaye is such a resourceful actor and is capable of playing a plethora of genres, but here she proves that she’s more than comfortable within the horror world and totally owns it. It’s also refreshing to see a horror film wherein the main character isn’t the typical beautiful teenage girl. Films in this world don’t usually have a protagonist within Shaye’s age bracket – these actors are often pigeon-holed more into your Best Exotic Marigold Hotel type affairs.
There’s a strong turn from the criminally overlooked Josh Stewart as Elise’s drunk and dangerous father, and Whannell and Sampson offer their usual light relief to the nerve-shredding horror as Specs and Tucker. Javier Botet is back on creature duty; this time playing the menacing demon, KeyFace [any relation to Taser Face?]. The name might not be particularly scary, but Botet is on super creepy form as always. Again, this both works and doesn’t work for the film. Botet has played so many of these creatures now (he was also Mama in Mama, The Crooked Man in Conjuring 2, and the Hobo in It) that he’s starting to become overused. He’s great at what he does, but there’s only so many times you can see his long-limbs crawling around before it becomes the norm. He’s a great actor and it’s a shame that more people aren’t utilising him in different ways – he’s fantastic in Dominic Bridges’ Freehold for example, where he gets to be onscreen without make-up, but loses none of the fear factor.
Outside of Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell and the Lipstick Demon, the Insidious films are known for their string heavy scores. These are sadly practically non-existent this time around, the filmmakers favouring a more typical ghost story accompaniment which is a disappointing mistake. The score usually tears through the heart as it’s so piercing, but here it’s a much more generic affair.
There are plot holes aplenty, footage in the trailer not in the film, pointing to some potential heavy editing as the root of these. It makes for a muddled story, but let’s face it, most people aren’t watching for the story. By the end though the film it manages to bring in a final act that will excite fans of the franchise as things inevitably start to sync up.
The tension doesn’t hold-up unfortunately and a lack of expected elements, such as the strings, makes the film feel less like an Insidious film and more like one from the The Conjuring universe. Lacking the originality of the first film, Insidious: The Last Key is a fine Friday night fright fest, but not one that you’ll remember much further into the weekend.
Insidious: The Last Key review, by Kat Hughes, January 2018.
Insidious: The Last Key is in UK cinemas now.
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