UK Release Date: 12th January 2018
Runtime: 103 minutes
Director: Adam Robitel
Writer: Leigh Whannell
Starring: Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Caitlin Gerard, Spencer Locke, Bruce Davison, Kirk Acevedo
Synopsis: Elise takes on her toughest case to date when she’s called by the current resident of her childhood home to deal with a violent and unusual haunting that is taking place there.
James Wan has been drawing the headlines by spinning the success of The Conjuring into a full-blown cinematic universe. Meanwhile, his other horror series Insidious has quietly made its way through three mildly successful films, with the third benefiting from Leigh Whannell in the director’s chair and scoring some pretty solid scares. Whannell has stepped back in front of the camera for Insidious: The Last Key, which sadly takes all of the third film’s invention and condemns it to the Further.
Thankfully, the franchise has the good sense to maintain Lin Shaye as its leading lady, with her medium Elise awoken by a phone call from someone who needs help with an entity in their home. It soon transpires that the home in question happens to be the building where Elise grew up and had her supernatural gift suppressed by an abusive father, before and after the death of her mother in spooky circumstances.
The Last Key tries its hand at the old trick, often used by dying movie franchises, of crafting a tale that is somehow personal for the protagonist. This film heavily emphasises Shaye’s backstory and her performance rises to the challenge, with perhaps her best work in the franchise to date, despite some truly hideous dialogue (“it’s not a literal door; it’s a metaphysical one”). Whannell and Angus Sampson, too, manage a decent job as Shaye’s comic relief sidekicks, though romantic arcs involving them and much younger women feel more than a little icky.
Director Adam Robitel has absolutely no new ideas to bring to the notion of a haunted house movie – a fact that is clear from the first formulaic moments of The Last Key. The last decade of horror has squeezed every drop of potential from this sub-genre and it seems as if there’s nowhere for these movies to go. Robitel’s shadowy corners and figures appearing at the side of the frame are eminently predictable, however loudly the over-worked score announces their arrival.
From a storytelling perspective, this is a film that contains exactly the level of nonsense and psycho-babble that has always been the stock in trade of the franchise. The mythology of the Further continues to be warped and twisted to suit whatever narrative convenience is necessary to hold the movie together and there’s one third act moment that brings back the entirely unpleasant memory of Ouija. That’s before the movie even gets to a final scene that provides a level of circular franchise continuity absolutely nobody wanted or needed.
However strong the cast members are, they can’t rescue this boring trudge into an underworld we’ve all seen far too often before.
Pop or Poop?
The Insidious franchise is still around for some reason and the machine has churned out a particularly lacklustre haunted house horror with The Last Key. Lin Shaye is by far the series’s best lead, but her watchable performance cannot save the film from its over-abundance of dismal clichés.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.