Contrived and rote, ‘Insidious: The Last Key’ fails to hold a candle to its predecessors

Published: January 9, 2018
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Lin Shaye’s performance as Dr Elise Rainier is without a doubt the best thing about the film. PHOTO: IMDB

The Insidious franchise has inarguably been one of the best examples of studio-budget horror done right in recent times. And as a franchise, it has not only been immensely successful commercially but has also delivered on the scares effectively time and time again.

But sadly, like most horror franchises, it also doesn’t know when to call it quits and stop milking the franchise cash-cow, which means we get Insidious: The Last Keythe fourth film in the franchise. It is the  latest to join the likes of Ouija: Origin of Evil and Annabelle: Creationas films from already established horror franchises are taking the prequel route just for the sake of dishing out another movie with the franchise tag on it.

The Last Key takes the franchise in the direction of one of its oldest and most beloved characters, Dr Elise Rainier played by Lin Shaye, one of the secondary characters from the first three Insidious films who finally takes centre stage in this one. The film serves as a prequel to the first two Insidious films and a sequel to Insidious 3. It follows Dr Rainier during her early days as a paranormal investigator as she sets up shop with her fellow compatriots, Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), following the events of Insidious 3. Her latest assignment though takes her right back to her childhood house in New Mexico which forces her to confront many demons from her past that she thought she had left behind.  A number of flashbacks flesh out her story and give us context into her troubled past.

The most disappointing thing about The Last Key is perhaps how hopelessly detached it feels from the other Insidious films. The premise could have been interesting but instead it just feels contrived and rote, which results in a film that’s just as contrived and rote.

Exploring Dr Rainier’s character definitely provides the film with an interesting story of repressed horrors, elevated by a top-notch performance by Shaye. But what holds it back is director Adam Robitel’s (The Taking of Deborah Logan) constant penchant to go for the jump-scares which feels like over-kill at this point and diminishes any chances of character development or suspense. As a result, many of the film’s sub-plots feel undercooked and the film itself doesn’t feel much different than the mediocre bunch of horror films we are all used to seeing every year. When the film tries to incorporate the themes of the previous films, it loses sight of the story, which more than anything feels awkward and unnecessary in the first place.

Much to the film’s credit though, the extensive flash-back sequences which explore Elise’s childhood give an interesting insight into her character as well as the story. And Shaye’s performance as Dr Rainier is without a doubt the best thing about the film, especially considering the fact that horror franchises almost never get a 74-year-old actress to play a ghost-hunting heroine. While Whannell and Sampson do well in bringing a fair bit of comic relief to the film in the brief moments they are on the screen as Dr Rainier’s side-kicks Specs and Tucker.

Ultimately though, Insidious: The Last Key fails to hold a candle to its predecessors and serves as a mostly disappointing sequel/prequel for the otherwise successful franchise that’s let down by the usual bag of horror movie clichés. It’s scary but in the most superficial way possible, and that kind of bargain-bin horror isn’t something you haven’t seen before.

All photos: IMDb

Khalid Rafi

Khalid Rafi

The author enjoys writing and is passionate about Pakistan Cricket. He tweets @TheKhalidRafi (twitter.com/TheKhalidRafi)

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