Lights flicker, flashlights die at inopportune moments, floors creak and shadowy figures scuttle across the background. But mood is all the film has going for it. Rated 2 stars out of 4.
Old horror franchises don’t die, they unspool tepid, uninspired sequels in perpetuity. And with the fourth chapter, “Insidious: The Last Key,” this saga is on a familiar path. (Horror rule No. 3: If the word “last” appears in a title, expect multiple future installments.)
Following on the heels of “Insidious 3,” but set just before the events of parts one and two, Lin Shaye returns as parapsychologist Elise Rainier. Once again, she faces down fearsome spirits to solve a supernatural mystery and save innocents from otherworldly torment.
Movie Review ★★
‘Insidious: The Last Key,’ with Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Kirk Acevedo, Josh Stewart, Caitlin Gerard, Bruce Davison. Directed by Adam Robitel. Written by Leigh Whannell. 103 minutes. Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic content, violence and terror, and brief strong language. Several theaters.
This time, however, there’s a personal twist, as the action revolves around Elise’s haunted childhood home. The narrative flashes back to her troubled youth, her abusive father (Josh Stewart), and introduces her long-estranged brother (Bruce Davison).
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In the hands of director Adam Robitel, “The Last Key” hits all the haunted house markers. Lights flicker, flashlights die at inopportune moments, floors creak, and shadowy figures scuttle across the background. But mood is all the film has going for it.
The plot devolves into a convoluted tangle of well-worn horror tropes, spooky imagery and awkward family melodrama. A bloated script drags in the middle, piling one underdeveloped thread atop another, including the late-in-the-game addition of Elise’s niece (Caitlin Gerard), who shares her spectral gift — an obvious open door for more sequels. Instead of providing shocks or surprises, these shifts muddy the waters until you can barely tell what’s going on.
Forced humor courtesy of Elise’s steadfast paranormal sidekicks, Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (writer Leigh Whannell), is truly groan-inducing. But sporadic moments of WTF weirdness will keep some horror fans on the hook.
In the end, despite a spooky, if unoriginal, atmosphere, and ample jolts and jump scares, “Insidious: The Last Key” is only for franchise completists and hard-core genre enthusiasts with a high schlock tolerance.