As most of my readers know, I am not the biggest fan of horror films. To be fair, it is a childhood fear-threat reaction and I’ve been very slow to let horror films in to my filmic life. As a result, I haven’t seen the previous entries in the Insidious series. Which is why it’s ironic that I would start with the fourth entry, The Last Key which opens today.
Leigh Whannell’s story opens to Elise Rainier’s childhood home in Five Keys, NM. The Psycho – like home is situated high on a bluff, next to a death row penitentiary. The opening sequence establishes the fractured nature of the Rainier household, her abilities and her future. It also establishes her empathetic nature. We learn that she wishes no ill-will towards any one, but the house has other plans.
As the adult Elise Rainier, Lin Shaye is sublime. Without trying to sound ageist, Ms. Shaye is at the perfect age to carry the tension that the character is meant to convey. She is never nervous and she never lets us know her fears. This is, by extension, the empathetic nature Mr. Whannell wrote into her character, but also very much an extension of Ms. Shaye as an actress.
It is unfortunate that the supporting cast isn’t as strong as she is or that the story crumbles into an abysmal mess. When the story moves forward into modern times, the adult Elise is a parapsychologist, who gets a call that brings her back to her childhood home. Along for the ride are her associates, Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (Whannell). Both play the awkward late – teen, early twenty – somethings whose testosterone drives most of what they say. It was somewhat of a relief when the story allowed Ms. Shaye to carry the tension and they were quiet.
The other ‘hero’ in the film is Javier Botet as KeyFace. It takes a lot to work in a suit as Mr. Botet did here. What makes his appearance so memorable is the lack of seeing the entire body on camera, keeping the mysticism of his character hidden.
The nature of the story requires the introduction of certain characters about midway through the film and uses backstory fill in the gaps. Mr. Whannell’s use of the backstory is a cheat in a sense, because we already have certain information to fill in our own gaps. Perhaps they were relying on their scare tactics to make us conveniently forget said information? I can’t say for certain, but if the audience can’t be trusted to fill in their own gaps, what’s the point of telling the story?
Director Adam Robitel worked very hard to provide solid scares early in the film. He hoped that Ms. Shaye would carry the tension throughout the film, enough that the story could work over its 103 minute run time. The nature of the story destroyed the scares enough that the tension just couldn’t survive, which is a shame for me, someone who wants to explore modern horror cinema. I actually wanted to be scared.
Perhaps I need to catch up on the prior entries in this series, but I can safely say that this entry is better served tucked in the dank, dirty cellar from which it sprang.
Now in theaters, Insidious: The Last Key is rated R by the MPAA.