If, like me, you love the rollercoaster ride of a good horror movie, dial-up the volume, turn off the lights, and, for God’s sake, hold on.
The Insidious series of American horror films continues to surprise and impress with its latest chapter – The Last Key – focusing attention on the franchise’s most appealing character: psychic medium Elise Rainier (played brilliantly by Lin Shaye). After the critical and commercial success of the first two Insidious films (each a sort of update on Poltergeist with a contemporary injection of bathos to add humour to the horror), the series’ co-creator Leigh Whannell took the director’s seat (previously warmed by James Wan) for the first time in a prequel that proved to be the best of the lot.
A combination of the writer-director’s subversive storytelling tactics and wonderfully inspired staging with Lin Shaye’s keen-eyed if sorrowful “I see dead people” performance proved winning in Insidious: Chapter 3. That approach continues in The Last Key, albeit with The Taking of Deborah Logan’s Adam Robitel in the hot seat; a second prequel that brings us up to date with the original films through an origins story that seeks to discover what drew Rainier to mediumship and why her past continues to torment her.
Whannell, one of Hollywood’s current crop of star horror film writers and directors, has his fingerprints all over the film. And that’s a good thing. Featuring in The Last Key as Specs, one of Spectral Sightings’ team members along with Tucker (Angus Sampson), Whannell also writes and produces, ensuring that many of the qualities we saw in the previous Insidious efforts, particularly the brilliant Chapter 3, remain intact. Indeed, Whannell’s presence on set gets the best out of director Robitel who, in his previous films, which include the terrible Paranormal Activity: Ghost Dimension, has yet to display such confidence behind the camera.
But whether by committee, inspired by the writing, or created by the director, The Last Key possesses some great moments that wonderfully celebrate and subvert convention, turning the tables on expectation in both style and dramatic approach. Until a final 15 minutes that somewhat belies the good work to get there, Robitel’s entry into the Insidious series feels fresh and inspired, helped of course by the sparkling performance of Shaye who boasts a kindly presence on a tiny frame that’s beefed up by a feisty, super-charged defiance.
And that’s another thing Insidious: The Last Key has going for it. Not only has Shaye found a role that she appears made for, the series of American horror movies has given the actress, who first appeared in film as a whore in Joan Micklin Silver’s Hester Street, a chance to really shine as a lead in a major Hollywood production during what are the twilight years of her career. So often a genre obsessed with its pretty young men and women – scream queens and scream kings – Insidious: The Last Key is not only satisfied surprising in aesthetic but gladly celebrates the virtues of the more experienced performer. And Lin Shaye smashes it out of the park.
Not that any of this would matter much if the film wasn’t scary. But fear not, Robitel and co deliver the scares. In fact, one scene in particular involving Rainier in a basement ventilation shaft and an assortment of suitcases should come with a health warning. This wonderfully inspired moment boasts all Insidious: The Last Key’s defining qualities in a single scene. If, like me, you love the rollercoaster ride of a good horror movie, dial-up the volume, turn off the lights, and, for God’s sake, hold on.
Written by Dan Stephens
Directed by: Adam Robitel
Written by: Leigh Whannell
Starring: Lin Shaye, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell, Spencer Locke, Caitlin Gerard, Bruce Davison
Released: 2018 / Genre: Horror
Country: USA / IMDB
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Top 10 Films reviewed Insidious: The Last Key on DVD courtesy of Sony. The film was released on Digital Download May 7 and on Blu-ray™ & DVD May 21.