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Monday, Jan. 8, 2018 01:45 pm

Ponderous "Last Key" Crawls Towards Scares

Defying the notion that crisp pacing is essential to the success of any movie, particularly a horror film, Insidious: The Last Key meanders along without a care in the world, seemingly caring not a whit as to whether it engages its audience or not.   Directing for only the second time, Adam Rotel employs no sense of urgency in telling this flimsy tale, inviting tedium rather than terror in this latest entry in a franchise that’s overstayed its welcome.

Audrey (Tessa Ferrer) uncovers a dark secret with the help of a disturbed spirit (Aleque Reid) in Insidious: The Last Key.

Courtesy Universal Pictures

Psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye), the savior in the first two films in the series and the focal point of the part three prequel, is back again with a story that leads directly into 2010’s Insidious.  (Yeah, it’s a bit of a confused timeline but you soon come to realize keeping all of this straight is of little importance.) Haunted by dreams about her troubled childhood, she gets a call from one Ted Garza (Kirk Acevedo), a desperate man who just happens to live in the house she grew up in…which just happens to be a house on the grounds of a penitentiary…which just happens to be the location where many poor inmates were killer or tortured.

Obviously, nothing subtle in the script by Leigh Whannell, who’s penned each episode in this saga; yet better films have been built on less.  No, the problem lies in the fact that it takes nearly 40 minutes to dispense with this basic set-up and none of it is done with a sense of energy. That’s too bad because once Whannell lets the other shoe drop and the real horror of this troubled house is revealed, it’s rather inspired and quite horrific.

Credit Robital and cinematographer Toby Oliver for creating a genuinely frightening tone for the film.  Of particular note are sequences set in the haunted home with the abandoned penitentiary looming behind it as well as moments that occur in the bowels of the building where Rainier makes a gruesome discovery.  Look and mood is spot on here and while these moments are playing out, you can’t help but wish Whannell’s script were of higher quality. 

Psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) is stalked by something evil in Insidious: The Last Key.  
Courtesy Universal Pictures

Like most series of this nature, the Insidious movies are suffering from the law of diminishing returns.  While there was nothing remarkably original about any of these movies, the first two were done with panache and a degree of enthusiasm that made them seem fresh. Unfortunately, The Last Key is a ponderous affair laboring under the specter of these better efforts. 

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