Four films in, there’s not a ton of surprises with Insidious: The Last Key. You’ll either like the formula or not. For franchise fans and haters, The Last Key is more of the same — some decent scares, a couple of freak out moments and fun characters.
It’s hard to knock the formula as the three films with a combined budget of $16.5 million have earned $189 million. Clearly there’s an audience for these films and The Last Key should continue delivering exactly what they want to see.
With Elise (Lin Shaye) already dead in the series, this film is set years before Insidious. That gives the franchise some Saw-like potential in looking at Elise’s earlier adventures provided this film makes enough of a profit at the box office.
Elise gets a call from a man (Kirk Acevedo) who’s living in her childhood home and starting to witness some strange events. With her assistants Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), Elise begins what will be her most personal case yet.
It doesn’t help that Elise had terrible childhood memories with her father (Josh Stewart) afraid of her ability to communicate with the dead along with a significantly traumatic event.
Reconnecting with her brother (Bruce Davison), Elise slowly learns she was drawn to return home to deal with a threat she’d run away from all those years ago.
Like its predecessors, The Last Key finds the right balance of playing in to thriller clichés and paying off with solid scares. In that sense, The Last Key would almost play better in a home environment where a group of friends can nervously watch and offer commentary/advise to the characters together.
Director Adam Robitel, one of the Paranormal Activity writers, has a good sense of creating uneasy, thriller tension. Sometimes it’s the more obvious kind like something under the bed or just on the other side of a set of luggage. Other times it’s more unsettling with moments that might leave viewers questioning what they saw. The night vision camera gimmick is very helpful in those scenes.
Robitel understands the benefits of letting scenes play out with as a little noise as possible and in those pin drop moments, the film is at its most nerve-wracking. Pure silence is one of the most effective tools in a horror/thriller director’s arsenal and Robitel uses it well.
I love that Tucker frequently ignores his size and gets spooked out, letting Elise lead the way. Tucker and Specs tend to act normal when confronting these paranormal activities so they’re hesitant to check behind doors and don’t head in the direction of the creepy noise without prompting. They’re the sidekicks and Elise is unquestionably the main hero.
Insidious probably doesn’t get enough credit for having a female protagonist. Better yet one who at 74 doesn’t have to run around in a too tight tank top to draw in the crowd. Shaye may occasionally dip into some overacting, but she’s the steady presence this franchise needs.
Whannell, who also wrote the script, tried to work in some light comedy with Specs and Tucker awkwardly talking to Elise’s nieces (Caitlin Gerard and Spencer Locke), but it just comes off goofy and ill-timed. In other areas, their comedic reactions work as intended.
The Last Key doesn’t revolutionize the Insidious series, but it makes the case there’s no need to pull the plug on it anytime soon.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Photo Credit: Justin M. Lubin/Universal Pictures