The Horror Honeys: Farther Into the Further with Insidious: The Last Key

Farther Into the Further with Insidious: The Last Key

A Supernatural Honey New Release Review with Kim

Photos courtesy of Blumhouse Productions
Insidious: The Last Key (2018)

Modern horror franchises have become a little too zealous in their desire to bring everything full circle. Annabelle: Creation (2017) is one of the most recent films to try a little too cleverly to tie in the sequel to the original. It's not a bad thing to want to connect movies of the same franchise, but when the audience can see the filmmakers patting themselves on the back for their cleverness, it loses some of the appeal. Where Insidious: The Last Key (2018) is the fourth film in the franchise, the time jumps render it at times a sequel, and at times a prequel, yet all of the action is still occurring before the original Insidious (2010) takes place. Confused yet?

Elise (Lin Shaye) is back as the grandma we all secretly wished we had. This time, she's been called back to investigate her childhood home. With her loony but lovable paranormal investigator cohorts, Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), they journey to her home. Inevitably, the past and the present collide when old secrets reveal themselves, and Elise finds that there is more at stake than she ever could have imagined. The movie jumps around in time, showing the audience flashbacks of Elise as a child and a teenager.

Backstory in a horror franchise is not always a good thing, but this proved to be one of the rare occasions where it did add to the story. Knowing more about how Elise grew up with her powers, as well as her somewhat tragic family life, helped in explaining some of her career motivation. Ava Kolker's performance as a young Elise is well done and a believable match to her older counterpart.

There is no denying Lin Shaye is at home with the character of Elise. Shaye has become a staple of many horror films over the last few years, but not all the characters are well defined, and they sometimes border on caricature. Her performance in Insidious: The Last Key is strong and despite time jumps and sometimes dubious logic in the plot, helps carry the movie. Elise's sidekicks, Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), who have had a solid and welcome comedic presence in previous films return, yet their jokes mostly fall flat. This is not the fault of the actors, their part in the script does them a disservice. Although seeing as how Leigh Whannell also wrote the screenplay he does shoulder some of the blame. Their constant bumbling attempts at flirting with young women are not charming or even awkwardly endearing; they're creepy. The actors do the best with what they're given but it's not much.

Of course, there are jump scares aplenty. If they hadn't already worn out their welcome a good decade ago, there's still nothing new or innovative about how they're used in this film. If anything, the audience will find themselves jumping at the noise assaulting their ears over any actual fear. The tactic has become so overused and predictable that even non-genre fans are starting to roll their eyes at it. Despite trying to deliver some real scares with sudden sounds and things popping out of nowhere, any moment that delivered real chills came from quieter beats. Building suspense and tension is going to win over sudden startling any day. Where a jump scare makes you jump, a well-crafted scare will stay with you and leave you with chills.

Overall, Insidious: The Last Key is a bit frustrating. There were moments that resonated and added new layers to the franchise… and then there was the rest of it: clumsy attempts at humor, spirits upon demons upon more spirits, and a whole lot of characters at different times to keep tabs on. The idea was a solid one, but the execution was not always successful. It is to the film's credit that the same writer has been with it across all four films, a rarity in franchise filmmaking. That has helped the films from devolving into the complete mess that typically occurs anytime you start slapping "part four" onto a title. This also helps keep characters that may pop up from one film to another consistent.

Indeed, The Last Key is by far the strongest in the franchise since the original film. Depending on how you feel about the franchise, that is either high praise or not saying much. If you enjoyed the first film, or by some miracle all three of the first films, this movie will not disappoint. If you're not already onboard for the universe created, however, this is not the film to make you a convert. The Last Key is a solid entry into the franchise, and a superb vehicle for Lin Shaye, despite its flaws.

Supernatural Honey Rating: 3 crummy whistles out of 5