Insidious is an engaging series as its name speaks to how it builds slowly with the audience, subtly lingering with them. In the first three films, the imagery and story still stuck with you well after the credits ended.
The first movie was brilliant, starting out with a simple ghost story and then adding in demonic possession before full-blown astral projection into the limbo-like “Further.” The sequel may not have been as scary, but it added new depth to the world and even unique twists on the original’s events.
The prequel felt somewhat tacked on, with some references and fan service to the first two, yet it had its place. The haunting entities and their “otherworld” had a distinctly Silent Hill flavor that was chilling, plus the film explained how Elise met Specs and Tucker.
Which brings us to the fourth movie in the franchise, Insidious: The Last Key.
The fourth installment in the series, The Last Key is actually a sequel to the prequel that continues the story of Elise and her crew before the events of Insidious. Elise’s past and family are revealed, as she solves a new ghostly mystery involving the house where she grew up.
This latest film in the franchise proves it still lives up to its name in the scare department. Excellent tricks and twists are used throughout that can make even a seasoned horror-buff jump.
The imagery is as haunting as its predecessors, from dark rooms to the ghostly mists of the Further. The Last Key even has some moments that almost rival The Conjuring with how well they put the audience on edge.
Unfortunately, the scares are marred by some problems I had with the acting and direction.
When James Wan passed the torch to Leigh Whannell, the third movie felt separate yet still maintained that “insidious” (pun intended) air. Of course, this made sense since Whannell had written the first two, which carried over into the story and feel.
While Whannell wrote The Last Key, direction was passed to Adam Robitel, who last directed the acclaimed The Taking of Deborah Logan. Sadly, something goes wrong with this movie, as Robitel’s direction feels almost amateur “Indie,” from the actors to the angles of shots.
Many of the characters feel two-dimensional and exaggerated, not so much “dialing it in” as “dialing it up.” Kirk Acevedo and Bruce Davison are excellent actors, yet their characters displayed strange mannerisms that felt overacted.
Sampson’s Tucker and Whannell’s Specs go from odd ghost hunters to completely awkward dorks, shoehorning humor in that felt unnecessary and discordant. Their creepy sexual advances on two young women were particularly uncomfortable given current issues, especially considering how those problems manifest in geek society.
Even Lin Shaye, who was such a fun role in the first two she was given a prequel (to bypass her fate in Insidious 2) felt overdone at times. Her words felt almost Zelda Rubenstein-esque at times, saved mostly by some excellent body language.
I’m still torn on whether the movie itself is good or bad, as the story has its highs and lows. Whannell’s plot is decent, although the villain of this film seems to lack the depth of previous entities.
There were still some questions about the spirit’s motivations, unlike “The Man Who Can’t Breathe,” and it didn’t have the “oomph” of the lipstick-face demon. Also, there were minimal references to the other films, except for an ending that felt like it was added solely for that purpose.
Still, I enjoyed the story overall, including several excellent twists, and felt the horror aspect was well done. I just wish the acting and direction weren’t so distracting from the plot and horror.
I give Insidious: The Last Key a creepy 3.5 silver whistles out of 5.
Thanks to Allied Baltimore for providing the screening passes.