Insidious: The Last Key [Review by SpecialK]
Look, I know it’s 2018, and we should be all “onward and upward,” but I’m here to remind you that it’s ok to let yourself enjoy some truly harmless gratification now and again. Come on, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Maybe it’s sleeping in when you know you shouldn’t, or peeling back the lid on that pint of ice cream you know is better left in the freezer. Or maybe it’s playing and replaying that moment during the 2018 Golden Globes when Natalie Portman called out Hollywood for not tipping its hat to a single female director—sigh, yeah, now that was a satisfying burn.
Much like any guilty pleasure, Insidious: The Last Key has all the makings of what should be a bad film. Really, I know I shouldn’t like, let alone recommend it, yet here I am finding the franchise’s fourth film to be the best since the original.
Tracking closely with a growing trend set out in the first three films, this one focuses almost exclusively on the story of parapsychologist/friendly grandma character/heroine Dr. Elise Rainier, played yet again by the lovely Lin Shaye. We travel back to Elise’s childhood in Five Keys, New Mexico, where she suffered an abusive father, the death of her mother, a less-than-happy home built next to a prison, and a lot of beige 50s-style decor. As if that weren’t enough, Elise had to deal with her abilities to see dead people and travel out of her body to everyone’s favorite foggy haven in the afterlife: the Further.
After this flashback to Elise’s childhood, most of Insidious: The Last Key takes place in 2010—just before the plot of the original Insidious kicks in. Elise receives a call from her childhood home’s current tenant, who is seeking her help to rid the house of troublesome ghosts. In deciding to head back to New Mexico to aid the man, Elise ends up confronting her own past, not to mention a few demons (some less metaphorical than others).
Ok, so the plot is simple enough, right? What’s the bad part of this film? Where are those hidden calories? Those consequences that leave us with that guilty conscience? Well the writing isn’t fantastic, and it is truthfully quite cheesy at times. The jokes are often groan-worthy, and the message of family reconciliation is heavy-handed. And yes, the plot meanders—so hard, in fact, that Elise has to narrate her way out of most otherworldly problems she encounters, pulling just the right random solution out of thin air, and offering explanations that unfortunately only work to slap some lipstick on this pig of a storyline.
So what did the film get right? Just about everything else. If you know me, you know I like a good scare. But a true, stay-with-you scare. And this film has it all: well-timed-yet-not-annoying jump scares, fun with night vision cameras, lurking-in-the-shadow subtle creepiness, ghostly girls with wet hair, children who innocently see dead people, and some pretty fun and creative demons. One benefit of a plot that makes little sense is that you end up with a film in which anything can happen. And in a horror film, this means you’re always on the edge of your seat, peering around the corner, wondering what’s next.
Plus, quite objectively, the acting is pretty solid. Here come a few words rarely ever strung together in a sentence: the child actors were fantastic. Seriously, props to Ava Kolker and Pierce Pope. Shaye was her usual warm self, and we were even treated to more of Elise’s stoogy sidekicks this time, Specs and Tucker, than in any of the prior films.
Perhaps then it’s no surprise that director Adam Robitel was at the helm of this fun film. Although he started out with a lukewarm acting career, Robitel struck horror genre gold as writer/director/producer of one of my personal favorites, The Taking of Deborah Logan, a 2014 film that didn’t spend much time on the big screen but made many of the top must-watch horror lists. He proves himself again in Insidious: The Last Key, balancing horror based in reality with terrifying spirit worlds, and jump scares with deeply disturbing realizations. Robitel, I’m eagerly awaiting your next project.
Ok so yes, it’s a new year, and I know I should be telling you to watch your waistline and stick to every one of your overly-optimistic fad-tastic resolutions because #thebestisyettocome and something about a blank page in a 365-page book, etc. etc. But after choking down your kale chia kombucha paleo lemon pepper smoothie, and before jumping on that Peloton for the second (and what we all know will likely be final) time you use it, you know you’ll want to satisfy yourself with something you actually want to do. So just do it. Go see Insidious: The Last Key and take in the thrill of an entertaining and terrifying horror film.
SpecialK Verdict: It’s time to take a break from the resolutions. See Insidious: The Last Key, don’t think about the details too much, and have a blast.
Insidious: The Last Key opened Friday, January 5.