Despite being received with lukewarm reviews, 2011’s Insidious put James Wan on the map. Instead of being known for his torture porn thriller, Saw, Insidious proved that Wan could take the haunted house genre and give it his own unique spin. And while the first two Insidious films had Wan’s influence and heart, his absence was felt in the third installment. Insidious: The Last Key, the latest film to come out of the franchise, may not be the worst of the series (that title goes to the third movie), but it’s just as generic and uninspired.
Taking place after the third film, but before the first, Insidious: The Last Key once again follows the adorable Elise (Lin Shaye) and her Scooby Doo bozos, Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (Leigh Whannell). After a particularly rough childhood, Elise has to face in her demons in her childhood home once more after getting a call from the current occupant. Ted Garza (Kirk Acevedo) is a truck hat wearing, mumbling hick who has put all of his life savings into that house, so of course he doesn’t want to leave after encountering supernatural phenomena. In the middle of that, Elise also runs into her estranged brother and nieces who just seem to make the manner worse instead of helping the situation.
Like Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, Wan and Whannell work great as a team. But take one of them out of the equation, and their work suffers. Insidious 1 and 2 worked so well because Wan and Whannell balance each other out. Wan is able to make even the most ridiculous plots seem scary. Whanell has written all of the Insidious installments thus far, and Wan has been able to work around his rough edges (at least for the first two), But with a different director at the helm, it makes the franchise look tired and rundown. Adam Robitel (who was behind the criminally underrated The Taking of Deborah Logan) plays with the familiar tropes such as astral projection, but after seeing it done millions of times before, it just isn’t as cool anymore. Whannell tries to focus more on Elise’s damaged past, but it’s never fully developed and leaves the audience not caring. Robitel resorts to cheap jump scares to keep them invested. That being said, Whannell and Robitel do manage to keep things somewhat interesting with a disturbing twist and the theme of women standing up to male authorities.
Shaye is the saving grace of this franchise, but even she can’t save this movie from the January curse. Insidious: The Last Key is a blatant cash grab, and while it has the word “last” in the title, it feels far from the end. Whannell adds a contrived tie-in to the first film that practically guarantees another film in the works. Blumhouse sure knows how to milk a story until it’s dry, and will probably continue this franchise until every human is in the Furthur. And unless they make a Red-faced demon/Key demon team-up in the next film, I’m not interested.