Insidious: The Last Key
The annual tradition of a crappy horror release in January has been upended by Insidious: The Last Key, the fourth film in the greatest horror series of all time.
While not quite up to the standard set by its three predecessors, with series scribe Leigh Whannell again handling writing, the film is in good hands. Coming off the superb direction of Insidious: Chapter 3, he cedes those duties to Adam Robitel (The Taking of Deborah Logan), who does a respectable job continuing the films’ tradition of building suspense and delivering quality jump scares.
A sequel to Whannell’s prequel, leaving off where the 2010 original begins, The Last Key starts with a dream/flashback of young spiritual medium Elise Rainier (Ava Kolker) and her brother Christian (Pierce Pope) in early ‘50s Five Keys, New Mexico.
Growing up in the creepy shadow of a prison that frequently uses its electric chair, our hero-to-be struggles under the brutal rule of her father Gerald (Josh Stewart), who thinks he can beat his daughter’s “gift” out of her, yet finds solace with Christian and their kind mother Audrey (Tessa Ferrer), who’s supportive of Elise’s unusual communiqués.
This past still troubling her as an adult, Elise (Lin Shaye) is summoned back to her childhood home by its new owner Ted Garza (Kirk Acevedo) with complaints of otherworldly activity, and brings her reliable comic relief colleagues Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (Whannell) along for the ride to once more lighten the mood just the right amount.
In making sense of Ted’s modern-day woes and how they relate to her unresolved history there, The Last Key incorporates a smart blurring of ghosts and the living who merely resemble the dead, keeping characters and viewers alike alert and second-guessing themselves to thick mysterious ends.
But while eeriness abounds and KeyFace makes for a worthy addition to the saga’s rich cast of monsters, Robitel’s film lacks the unpredictable ghoulish entry points that enlivened Whannell’s entry, made each breath-holding frame a gleeful exercise in horror and allowed Chapter 3 to stand apart from James Wan’s initial two Insidious films.
Solid as the filmmaking is, especially in the current era of cheap junk that passes itself off as “horror,” there’s nonetheless little in The Last Key to identify it as distinctly Robitel’s. Bringing him back for a fifth installment suggests more of the same, so considering the slight depreciation that occurs under his new collaborator’s watch, Whannell may want to quit while his record is perfect.
Grade: B. Rated PG-13. Now playing at AMC Classic, Biltmore Grande and Carolina Cinemark
(Photo: Universal Pictures)