2018 | rated PG-13 | starring Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Bruce Davidson | directed by Adam Robitel | 1 hr 43 mins |
Halloween Horrorfest #12
That first Insidious was a lot of fun. Before refining his throwback horror style with The Conjuring, James Wan delivered a fun, wacky, high concept spookhouse movie that proved you can still ring up chills with a PG-13. While the studio has been big and open about building a universe around The Conjuring they also haven’t let Insidious die a peaceful death, now churning out a 3rd sequel and 2nd prequel tied ever so tangentially to the Lambert family and the psychic that helped them, Elise Rainer for further adventures into The Further.
A highlight of the first film, Lin Shaye had a career revival as Elise, making her the go-to to lend some gravitas to inferior ghost stories. So it make sense – conceptually – to build a series around Shaye and her team of nerdy ghostbuster sidekicks, Specs (writer Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson). In one ear and out the other, Insidious: The Last Key doesn’t know what to do with these characters. Shaye again engages with Elise, but the movie isn’t nearly as committed.
We open in flashback with a young Elise psychically connecting to death row prisoners and freaking out her dad (Josh Stewart) enough that the violent psycho tries to beat and torture the ability out of her. Now, a current occupant of her childhood home comes calling and the trio of spook hunters head back to New Mexico to deal with childhood trauma and Elise with her brother (Bruce Davidson) who still holds a grudge. The Last Key is just competent enough to not be a mess, but also unimaginative enough and lacking any tricks of the horror trade to be a complete and total bore. Last Key never makes the case for it’s own existence, not giving us much more from our core 3 and telling a story stitched together from set pieces in other studio horror films. It’s a huge snoozer.
One of the reasons Last Key is so flat is because it doesn’t understand why Specs and Tucker were greeted so well in Insidious. Insidious was frightening and tense and the appearance of these two goofy Ghost Facers rejects added the needed comic reprieve – ie. they didn’t have to be that funny. Now standing on their own in a movie that doesn’t have any tension to cut it becomes clear how hollow and useless they are. Last Key‘s people-in-the-wall tropes and Key Finger specter can’t liven it up when the core “family” is hardly engaging enough to build a film around.
Bonus Review: Delirium (2018)
It’s always welcome to see Topher Grace back on the screen. Seemingly a victim of Spider-Man 3 backlash, Grace doesn’t do a lot more than lend his brand of authentic awkward likability to any role, but nobody does it as well as him. The Netflix original Delirium finds Grace under house arrest in his late parents mansion. With cop-in-charge Patricia Clarkson enforcing an ankle monitor keeping him inside the mansion’s doors, he start to suspect the place is haunted. Genesis Rodriguez appears as the girl who takes an unusual amount of interest in this guy to force that demographic quadrant into the plot. Delirium trucks along without either jumps or a horror atmosphere unfolding a story we’ve seen many times recently in studio horror films with a haunted house pre-text. Like Shut In, The Boy and the above Insidious sequel, thinks aren’t quite what they seem, bringing the movie from the supernatural to a very easily managed conclusion.
But even more than those films, Delirium from start to finish is very, very much like the terrific New Zealand horror-comedy Housebound. Without that film’s colorful characters, wit and imagination, of course. There was a one-season reality series on Showtime called The Chair where two directors leant their vision to the same script, which is exactly how thee two movies come off together. If you’re even thinking of Delirium on Netflix this holiday season, keep sliding over to Housebound. It’s a criminally underrated Halloween Time gem.