Director: Adam Robitel
Cast: Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson
Thanks to my teenage kids, I’ve become a fan of schlocky American horror films – the ones with families in large suburban homes battling demons and spirits. All these homes have attics and basements and nothing good ever happens there. The best give you a few good jump scares – they are the movie equivalent of a haunted house at a carnival – good for screams and laughs.
So I walked into Insidious: The Last Key with great expectations. The producer James Wan is something of a legend in the genre – he is chief architect on not just the Insidious series but also the Conjuring series, the Saw series, the Annabelle series and somehow he even managed to direct Furious 7. Sadly, this edition of Insidious is a lame footnote on Wan’s expansive resume. This film is too silly to be scary.
Insidious: The Last Key is the fourth film in the series. It’s a sequel to the prequel of Insidious: Chapter 3 and a prequel to the original Insidious. The formidable Lin Shaye is back as Elise the demonologist. This film isn’t about her helping other haunted families. It’s about her own childhood and the demons that came to haunt her family.
We begin on the outskirts of a prison in Five Keys, New Mexico in 1953, where Elise lives with her parents and little brother. Her mother is loving and supportive but her father is flat-out crazy. He beats her every time she speaks about ghosts, of which there are plenty floating around. Which made me wonder why Elise just doesn’t stop talking about ghosts so that her father stops beating her but you don’t ask logical questions in films like these. The story then jumps to 2010 when an adult Elise is called back to her childhood home to literally and figuratively face her demons.
Director Adam Robitel creates a few genuine scares – there is a truly frightening scene in which Elise is opening trunks in a confined space – each trunk unveils a new horror. The idea of a demon with keys for fingernails is also pretty cool. But mostly the scares are predictable and the story is limp. There is one twist that I didn’t see coming but the rest of it is all creaking doors, blood-dripping spirits and smoke-filled corridors. There isn’t much here that you haven’t seen before.
Shaye brings depth to the enterprise and I like that a horror franchise can be fronted by an elderly woman but Insidious: The Last Key feels like a car running on empty.