As inconsistent and creaky as the old floorboards of this film’s generic haunted house, Insidious: The Last Key is a tired though mildly inspired jolt to a franchise that could never quite match the far superior universe of The Conjuring. The fourth entry, and supposed swan song, for the Insidious series hinges itself firmly on Lin Shaye’s Elise Rainier in a sequel-to-a-prequel kind of deal that focuses on her childhood and attempts to bring everything full circle for the aging professional medium. Shaye’s character has always been one of the more interesting parts of Insidious, and the veteran screen queen certainly does her best to hold the film together with a characteristically warm and calming presence nicely contrasted with the hellish tone of demons both ghostly and real.
The movie ventures to Elise’s childhood although not far back enough as to uncover exactly why she became gifted in the first place. The main purpose of this is to first establish a central demon that Elise unwittingly let loose as a child, and second: introduce Elise’s incredibly abusive father, constantly traumitised brother, and tragically fated mother. Sketching all of this past onto Elise does little for her character, but ups the personal stakes for Insidious’ conclusion (although the ending leaves things open). It also provides context for her trepidations about helping her latest would-be client, Ted Garza (Kirk Acevedo) who eventually tempts Elise back to her childhood house, along with the medium’s likeable sidekicks Specs (franchise creator and actor Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson).
Director Adam Robitel, who once undid all the good will he built with The Taking of Deborah Logan with the woeful Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, redeems himself a little here with competent, fear-heightening direction despite the scares not being nearly as effective as in the franchises’ first two entries. He’s assisted greatly by Get Out cinematographer Toby Oliver who has a good sense of showmanship and helps some of the more meticulous scares unravel in interesting ways.
The film’s two or three twists do add a little more grit to story, as predictable as they are – tip: if you want a character to appear trustworthy do not get Kirk Acevedo to play him – and this entry does surprisingly throw in some effective humour here and there – Sampson is in fine form here – but there’s not much here that’s new or original in a series that was pushing it with a third entry back in 2015.
Review Score: TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Insidious: The Last Key is out now.