INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY Review
Director: Adam Robitel
Ah, the first horror film of the year. At this point, everyone and their mother knows that each January hosts a dumping ground for the spooky studio dreck that’s essentially been signed off as an irredeemable turd. If you’re lucky, you might have the select privilege of something so baffling and misguided that it’s a treat to laugh at: cue last year’s Meme King, THE BYE BYE MAN. If you’re unlucky, you get THE FOREST. Hackles should have been raised as soon as Blumhouse booted the fourth installment of one of its most recognizable franchises to the New Year, instead giving its Halloween-adjacent slot to HAPPY DEATH DAY, perfectly enjoyable slasher fare, but nowhere near the heavy hitter the season requests. And yet, Insidious is a name I trust. The first film is genuinely good, and while its sequels can be silly at times, they still scratch the itch for a summer night out with friends. INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY, however, is almost entirely without merit. Lacking scares, coherency, or any real importance to the overall arc of the franchise, the only way this film will be remembered is if Blumhouse actually has the balls to let the franchise die.
Just do it you smug bastard
The second film in the franchise from a chronological perspective, one of the few interesting things THE LAST KEY does is to focus its narrative from the get-go on paranormal investigator Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye), an easy scene stealer in the first three films. Receiving a report of demon infestation coming from the address of her former childhood home, Elise heads to New Mexico with her trusty sidekicks, Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (franchise writer Leigh Whannell), to get to the bottom of the demons haunting her, both metaphorically and literally. While there, she finds herself hunted by a menacing supernatural entity known as Key Face. As is her wont, Elise must go even deeper into the ghost realm of The Further to save the day.
There’s just no way around the fact that THE LAST KEY feels deeply, truly, and almost painfully exhausted. INSIDIOUS was initially of note simply due to what a back-to-basics approach to a classic haunted house film it offered—though certainly a case of diminishing returns, INSIDIOUS 2 and 3 at least managed to remember what they were and where they came from, always zeroing in on atmosphere and pulling the rug out from under you with cheap, but no less effective, jump scares. THE LAST KEY, however, can’t muster enough presence to even tiptoe around any sort of spooky fun. There are maybe three jump scares throughout the entire ordeal, the scariest one a carbon-copy jolt from the first film, and The Further is relegated to an uninspired, hospital-esque corridor and a severely underutilized jail lay-out. What’s even more offensive is that THE LAST KEY commits one of the most egregious sins a horror film can: promising us scenes and even fully realized ghosts, scary ones too, I might add, in the trailer that don’t make it into the final cut. Where is that corridor of deformed moppets, I ask you!
90 minutes into INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY and she give you this look. Fellas, wyd???
It’s a shame too, because director Adam Robitel had a sleeper hit with his first film, THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN. Possessing a stellar concept and a deft handling of the much-maligned found footage toolbox, Robitel proved to be an unassuming yet impressive new voice in horror. Regrettably, there’s nothing in THE LAST KEY to suggest that he’s anything other than a faceless hired gun, any attempts at atmosphere short-lived at best and muddled at worst, and a generally predictable roster of jump scares. What’s more, Key Face is by far the most impotent “mini-boss” the franchise has conjured up. Present for maybe the entirety of one act, his inclusion feels like one of necessity. In addition, all he’s relegated to are a few vanilla scenes of suddenly popping up behind a character, and his final appearance features my least favorite decision for horror films to make: electing to have the final confrontation with a demon we’re supposed to fear be a straightforward physical one entirely bereft of terror.
But even if you find yourself reluctantly jumping on the scant few occasions when the film remembers it’s supposed to be scary, you’ll find yourself falling asleep during the cringeworthy interstitial scenes of character development. I guess it’s kind of cool that a fourth installment chose to focus on a cast of series sidekicks, but they almost immediately get stretched to breaking point. Mostly utilized for dorky one-liners in the previous films, Tucker and Specs are exceptionally grating, with an entire theater staring glumly ahead as the half-baked attempts at humor assaulted their ears. I suppose if there’s one thing to see THE LAST KEY for it’s Lin Shaye, but despite being comparatively critically acclaimed, her performance only feels like a standout due to how much of a slog getting through the rest of the film is, much more of a dull glimmer than a shine. That’s not even mentioning the banal incorporation of Elise’s brother, Christian (Bruce Davison), and nieces, Imogen and Melissa (Caitlin Gerard and Spencer Locke), who serve no purpose other than to chew up a runtime that already doesn’t know how to make use of its limited supply of substance. After all, the scariest part of THE LAST KEY is that there’s enough pipe laid that we might get another film starring Imogen.
Left: Mfw tweeting
Right: My followers reading my tweets
If I were really trying to say something nice about THE LAST KEY, I would say that it has two cool ideas. There’s a second act twist that I must admit I didn’t see coming, but despite the relatively clever 180 it could have forced the world of story to subscribe to (the age-old Scooby Doo question of whether the ghosts are real or not), all it really does is turn THE LAST KEY into a subpar DON’T BREATHE for three minutes. Last and most certainly least, despite me dunking on him above, Key Face has a somewhat intriguing mechanic wherein he effectively locks you out of one world by taking away your voice and opens the door to another. But of course, this goes nowhere interesting, and apart from a limp scene wherein he jams his key fingers into Imogen’s throat, he’s easily avoided and even more easily defeated.
Don’t see INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY unless you’re necessitated to by your blind dedication to horror genre fare. Until the summer rolls around, most horror films are going to be much better appreciated as a late-night instant streaming search than a theater-going experience that costs the same as half-a-tank of gas, and you can skip out on Robitel’s sickly child entirely without anyone batting an eyelid. THE LAST KEY will make you feel nothing more than depressed and regretful, and buddy, I work four jobs and can barely pay rent, so I’ve got enough of that in spades as is.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend