- Product Rating -

Insidious: The Last Key

| January 11, 2018

One time last summer, I was walking down the street when a squirrel fell out of a tree and killed itself. Whether or not the act was intentional is still a mystery to me, but the fact that a creature with the tenacity of a crackhead and a tail made of brown cotton candy happened to lie dead outside of my apartment for a few days before being swept away is something that I think of from time to time. In fact, it’s something that I thought of several times while sitting through Insidious: The Last Key. In what proves to be a leap into the void—ahem, The Further—and very well may be an unstoppable fall of terminable velocity for this once buoyant franchise, the viewer isn’t so much made to watch an unfolding of events or experience any sort of emotions. Instead, they are made to stare at a rotting corpse of a movie until it’s unceremoniously dragged off and replaced with a not-as-tired, not-as-desaturated, not-as-sleep-inducing replacement. This corpse just happens to have Lin Shaye.

The fourth installment of this unforeseeably durable franchise takes place after Chapter 3 and before the original and Chapter 2. Here, parapsychologist Elise Rainier (Shaye) learns of paranormal activity occurring in her New Mexico childhood home where she grew during the 1940s and ’50s. With the recently discovered assistance of tech guys and utter comic reliefs Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (franchise writer and Chapter 3 director Leigh Whannell), they head over to the house with the intention of solving a case for the first time as an established team—or “psychic” and “sidekick”, in an unfunny joke that’s milked to death. It’s such a nothing of a plot because it’s such a nothing of a movie, just kind of floating around aimlessly without any sort momentum.

While none of the other three movies were bad, The Last Key almost seems proud at times to fulfill the requirement of a ubiquitous horror film series finally having an awful installment. The banality of the filmmaking is so pervasive; the film is unappealing to look at. The color palette executed by director Adam Robitel and cinematographer Toby Oliver is caked in desaturation and scenes are shot in ways that prevent the viewer from gaining a sense of space, often with unwarranted closeups and choppy editing. The sound work is even more distracting, operating only to either telegraph a jump scare in with its silence or drown the viewer in a cacophony of noises that are far more annoying than unnerving.

Similar to how the sound work operates on just two planes, the film itself as a whole does as well. Despite clocking in at a modest 103 minutes, The Last Key is an utter drag where ostensibly suspenseful sequences lack justifiable choices in pacing on a screenwriting level, which are then exacerbated by the aforementioned technical filmmaking. Whannell’s script is a non-script, the equivalent of a reporter asking a press secretary about the War on Terror only to get a non-answer about the war on drugs. What could make for some decently entertaining insights into protagonist’s backstory quickly devolves into a mess by falling back on peripheral characters that are so interchangeable that their sheer existences prove to be more antagonizing than the actual antagonist here—if there is one. It’s all punctuated by comic relief voiced by Sampson and Whannell’s characters that not only is unfunny and drawn-out, but plays against the self-serious tone of the rest of the film. It’s Shaye herself who acts as the one bright spot in this nothingness.

As Insidious: The Last Key continues to drag its decomposing self through the mud and haphazardly slap audience members in the largely empty showing that I attended, it became more fascinating for me to understand the reason why a woman brought her toddler to see it. Was she just that desperate to get out of the house? Did she just not want to have to care about anything at all for about two hours? Either way, she remained on her phone for the entire runtime as her child remained asleep, the two of them both equally as unaffected and apathetic. If a movie can impart that sort of shared emotional response between a mother and daughter, than maybe it really is something especially unspecial.

About the Author:

Senior year film student at Columbia College Chicago, Hollywood Film Festival pre-screener, and Best Social Media Presence for North Farmington High School's 2014 senior mock elections. Firmly believes that ".gif" is pronounced "jiff".
Filed in: Horror, Now Playing
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