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The first Insidious movie back in 2011 was, to me, at least, one of the scariest films I had seen in quiet some time. What I found interesting enough about that movie was, when I went back to see it a second time, it was an even scarier experience because I saw it in a far better screen with better sound, and I found new things I had missed the first time around. My friends and I left that screening and couldn't sleep that night, it scared us that badly. I know there are silly moments in the film, and sometimes the acting may not the be the greatest in cinema, but director James Wan and his partner in crime, Leigh Whannell, who also wrote and acted in the film, brought together their favorite things about horror films, especially ghosts stories, and gave us one to remember—of course, until James Wan directed the far superior The Conjuring, which is still, by my opinion, one of the finest horror films that has come out in the last decade.
Knowing how well the film did and how the film ended with a terrific cliffhanger, I was ready and eager for the follow up to the film. It's just too bad the second film failed to do anything scary with its material. It's a shame, since all the same players from the first one, including the original screenwriter, all came back for this film. But James had also released The Conjuring that very same year, and to follow up with that film with Insidious 2, it just showed how little James's passion and heart was in the latter film. I feel that James was doing it more for his friend than anything else, because it felt rushed and incomplete, and the story and structure of the film was far from great, although James and Leigh were still able to bring out a few creepy moments, but nothing stayed with me, unlike the first time around. The third film, which happened to be directed by Mr. Whannell, showed great promise, but again, very little was scary about it, although I will say the story that time around was much better, having more depth and drama in it, which was lacking in the second film.
And now, here we are, the fourth film. It really is hard to believe that we are here, cause quiet honestly, I didn't think there was much to do with this franchise after the third film, considering that film was a prequel, taking place a few years before the first film. Yet here I am, telling you about the follow-up to that film. Insidious 4, which is called The Last Key (hopefully signaling the end), is a direct follow-up to the third film, so it's a prequel/sequel, which are the worst, usually, since they make us feel, as the audience, that they are doing this kind of film just to sell tickets, without having much in the way of stuff that will keep us in the seats. I'm happy to say that this film is more of an "eh" than the complete disaster that I feared it was going to be. Now, having said that, this film, sadly, feels very "forced" and "rushed" more than anything, much like the second film did. The story this time around is going back to Elise's backstory—the lady paranormal investigator from the first three films—and the backbone of the series, and finding out just where she came from. Surprise, surprise, she came from a abusive home, much like how many of these films go, and her mother and brother were her only friends and comfort from her truly evil father. Her father, played by character actor Josh Stewart, is a cruel man; a warden of a insane asylum, which just so happens to be right next to Elise's home. We see that Elise has had this power to hear and talk to ghosts and spirits for a long time, many of whom, we find out, are from the asylum. One night, just as everyone settles down to go to bed, we see Elise talk to a small boy who has been playing in her and her brother's room, when her father begins to beat her and throw her into the basement as punishment, not understanding that what she has is a gift. While in the basement, Elise is contacted by the villain of the film, known as KeyFace, who sprouts keys on the ends of his fingers (a rather creepy design, I must say), who invades Elise, trying to get her to unlock the red doors (meaning of that is explained in the film later on), but sadly, her mother, who goes and tries to get Elise out of the basement, is killed by KeyFace. Elise's father finds her mother, and that's when we cut back to Elise as she is now, in 2010 (again, the film is a prequel), and she is having dreams of KeyFace and that fateful night—something she says she hasn't had in years.
I will say, for all the faults this film has, Lin Shaye is not one of them. I'm very glad that she finally is front and center for this film instead of being in the background like she was in the prior films. Her performance is great, and we get a lot from Elise, knowing just how bad it was for her growing up, to now, being taunted and tortured by her past, and how she is trying to fix what she started all those years ago. Her sidekicks, Specs and Tucker, who have always been the comic relief in these films, are also more in the film this time around, although that can be looked at as a bad thing or a good thing, depending how annoying you find these guys. Honestly, aside from the many jokes that sucked, they didn't bother me one bit, and actually had a few fun and funny moments in the film.
The film takes place in Five Keys, Mexico (Haha, get it? Cause it's called Last Ke...oh whatever), and when Elise gets a call from the owner of her family home, she heads back to find out if the demon she summoned back then is what is causing the activity now, and if so, try and destroy it once and for all. This is when the film starts to really suck for me. We are shown many flashbacks about Elise when she was 16 years old and how she wants to run away from home, all the stuff you've seen in countless films. I just find it hard to swallow such a lame and tasteless backstory, which, again, has been used many times before. We get it, Elise had a bad childhood. Do we really need to spend so much time showing flashbacks when you had the first ten-or-so minutes of the film set that up? Why do we need to be constantly reminded of this? Oh, that's right, because without it, we couldn't be shown a twist in the later part of the movie that really wasn't much of a twist to begin with (I won't spoil it, just in case you want to see the film yourself). I really do hate it when writers put things in their scripts just for a set-up. I don't mind it if it really has a good meaning or works well with the story, but when a twist is included in the film just because this is, in fact, the fourth movie, and not much is new or original about it anymore, it just makes you wonder: why would they do the movie other than the fact that money was involved?
Now, aside from those big complaints, I will say the film had some good scares in it, but like the other ones, they just didn't hit or stay with me that long. They were more of "BOO" scares, which can work, but while, in the original, those type of scares were well-executed and would stay with you, by the time you get to the fourth one, it just can't ever have that staying power. It would be impossible for it to; we have seen all this before, and aside from a few great moments, it's nothing original. I applaud Leigh Whannell, who I'm sure agreed to do it because money talks, for trying to give us something in this film, but his writing feels lacking; it is tone deaf. It's trying to be something with more meaning and heart, but when you only have 90 minutes to do that, it doesn't work. Not enough time is given to set up everything and give them room to grow. Case in point is the two daughters and Elise's brother, who show up about halfway through the movie. The two daughters, Imogen and Melissa, are just about what you would expect from this type of film; eye candy with no character. Seriously, these two broads, aside from their banging bodies and killer hair, both look and sound the same, and aside from their names, I couldn't tell you a damn thing about their characters, except that they are blonde and are the daughters of Christian, Elise's brother, who we find out was abandoned and left with Elise's father when Elise ran away from home. This dynamic could have worked if it weren't for the fact that, again, these three people don't show up until half the movie is over. We are given no time to like or get to know these characters, yet they are treated as people we are meant to like. But we are told to like them, not shown. Telling and showing are far different things, and bad movies tell us to like them or not to like them, where a good movie will take the time and actual effort to give us characters we will love, or characters will with loathe and hate. But since all the effort was put into Elise and her story, it's a shame these people are wasted, because their performances are fine, given what little material they are given to work with.
I won't waste much more of your time, but one thing I will say about this movie is that it wasn't boring; it felt quick and painless, which is good for a film that is the fourth in a horror franchise. While the ending had left a LOT to be desired, and was quick and rushed, it at least felt like the final one. It felt that everything was tied up nicely in a cute little red bow, and we leave the theater thankful that it feels like the last one. I hope I didn't spoil much, in case there are a lot of you who want to see it (and since it grossed over 30 million in its opening weekend on a nine million dollar budget, I would say a lot do), but just be warned that, while it has good moments and some funny one-liners, it just feels wasted. It feels that this was done for money and not actually entertainment. Leigh Whannell should just stop after this and try and move on to other things because, again, while I like the fact this series has one voice, that voice is very mute by this point, and you should probably just wait to rent it, or, if you don't own the others, just buy the collection once it comes out. I did enjoy myself with the film, but left not caring about it once the credits started. It's like a bad one-night stand; some of it was good, but you won't care or remember what happened after it is over.