It’s January, so you know what that means: Welcome to the boneyard where all the worst movies are sent to die! A fair number of the cinematic bodies dumped in the winter boneyard are horror movies, and indeed, this year’s first burial is Insidious: The Last Key. Before the screening started for Insidious: The Last Key, I had a conversation about whether Insidious was the one with the guy who comes out of the photos, or the one with the dolls and the nuns, only to find it’s the one with the sleeping kid and the demons. Determining whether or not it’s “the one James Wan did” was not helpful as Wan has directed films for Insidious AND The Conjuring; similarly, Patrick Wilson was also an anti-useful dead end since he has also starred in both those franchises. Process of elimination totally failed, and I realized that these are all the same movie. And then Insidious: The Last Key started and I wanted to die immediately.
The Last Key is the fourth Insidious movie and it’s a sequel to the prequel about the psychic who rescues the sleeping kid from demons. The bad news is that while the story of The Last Key doesn’t depend on you knowing everything about the Insidious franchise, you will still be a little bewildered by some of the characters, particularly the two sidekicks, Specs (franchise screenwriter Leigh Wannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson). They are so annoying and tonally dissonant that unless you already know who they are, you will wonder why they’re in the movie in the first place. The good news is: There isn’t any.
The movie revolves around Elise (Lin Shaye, and the best thing about The Last Key is that it centers on an older woman kicking ghost ass and taking demon names), a psychic who must return to her childhood home to settle a haunting, once and for all. Key kinda-sorta works in the flashbacks to Elise’s childhood, where ghosts from the nearby prison haunt her home and she can see dead people but her dad tries to beat the sixth sense out of her. It’s not a bad set up for a horror movie, establishing both a haunting ground and a personal connection to motivate Elise to finally confront her demons, both emotional and spiritual. If Key was just that and nothing else, it wouldn’t be half bad. But then Specs and Tucker open their f*cking pie holes and ruin the moment with GODAWFUL BAD JOKES (horror movies don’t really need jokes, that’s not why you’re at a horror movie in the first place), and the movie totally loses momentum.
Between the horrible, ill-advised and ill-timed “humor”—there is only ONE good joke in the whole movie, every other attempt at humor should have been cut—and the grinding, relentless, screechy, DOMINATING score, Key cannot maintain a sense of tension or dread. That score, from frequent horror composer Joseph Bishara, hammers away constantly, stepping on every moment and murdering tension like it slept with his girlfriend. Modern horror movies are often guilty of using LOUD NOISES to punctuate scares, but Key literally cannot sustain a scare because the score never f*cking quits advertising when something is about to happen. There is one decent scare scene in the whole movie involving a set of rattling keys, and except for diegetic noise, it’s QUIET. That quiet allows viewers to stew in their own imagination, ramping up their own tension as they wait for something to happen. But no, The Last Key can’t stop ringing the doorbell of its own surprise.
Should you see this movie? Don’t bother. It’s cold and sh*tty everywhere except California, which is still on fire, so you have plenty of great excuses to literally do anything else. Key isn’t even enjoyable in a bad horror movie kind of way, because it is at no point fun. I lost two hours of my life to Insidious: The Last Key, but it’s not too late for you, you can still save yourselves. Spare yourself this waste of time and money, and let the winter boneyard claim its first victim.
Attached - Lin Shaye at Comic-Con in Brazil last month.