All good things must come to an end, huh? People seem to like dumping all over these Insidious movies, and I’ve never really understood it. They’re corny? Yeah, of course they are. The mythology’s gotten too convoluted and goofy as time went on? I can’t care. They’re fine. They’re cool. They’re consistent and they all work together to make a more interesting whole than they’re given credit for. And it’s all coming from the mind of the pretty normal-seeming Leigh Whannell, a guy who found a pretty solid Hollywood niche for himself and who I’d trade careers with in a heartbeat. But eventually it all had to come down to this.
The Last Key goes just a step too far. At a certain point, I’m not interested in tearing into all the intricate details of who these characters are or exactly how they figured out all of these supernatural tricks. It was always enough for me that they were essentially a gang of low-rent Zelda Rubinsteins ferreting out ghosts and exploring the netherworld. But maybe I’m in the minority here. Maybe audiences were just dying to know the life story of Lin Shaye’s character, parapsychologist/demonologist Elise, and how an abusive and troubling home led her to discover her powers. But while previous entries in the series have at least attempted to deepen the overall story, all we get out of The Last Key is a lot of fumbling over themes of family unity and believing in yourself — and that abusive fathers may not always be the most trustworthy people.
Thankfully, the good news is that The Last Key is just as much fun to watch as the rest of the series has been. While there’s nothing as straight-up bananas here as that first look inside the demon’s lair in the original Insidious, the otherworldly settings still have that grimy and disgusting chemical toilet look that I absolutely love. The effects and makeup work are also up to par with what we’ve come to expect, though relatively scattered, since most of what we see from the spirits in this film is draped in darkness, always stalking and lashing out from the shadows — save for one over-the-shoulder jump scare that’s become de rigueur by now.
The cast is also good, playing everything straight and creating mini-orbits around Shaye, who has played this character for so long that I don’t think of her as “Nancy’s teacher” or “Bob’s sister” anymore. There’s a lived-in weariness to Elise that comes through in every scene. And with Angus Sampson and writer Whannell back on board as her two bozo assistants, there’s enough broad comic relief to not let the project get too bogged down in how dark some of the material ends up being (that abusive household stuff does, indeed, get pretty intense).
For sure, this is the low point of the series so far (we’ll no doubt be getting more of these). But I’ll take a bummer Insidious movie over an OK entry from most other current horror franchises any day of the week. Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic content, violence and terror, and brief strong language. Now playing at AMC Classic River Hills 10, Regal Biltmore Grande, Carolina Cinemark, Epic of Hendersonville.