[Early Review] Insidious: The Last Key (2018)

Director: Adam Robitel

Cast: Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Josh Stewart, Caitlin Gerard

Screenplay: Leigh Whannell

103 mins. Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic content, violence and terror, and brief strong language.

 

The Insidious franchise is now four films in, and the newest installment, The Last Key, had me a little concerned when it was bumped back to January, oftentimes the graveyard of shitty horror films. I happen to be a big fan of this franchise, and I want to see it continue with more well-received reception. So I entered the theater with some trepidation tonight.

Shortly after the events of Chapter 3, Elise (Lin Shaye, There’s Something About Mary, Abattoir) and her newly-formed team of Specs (Leigh Whannell, Saw, The Bye Bye Man) and Tucker (Angus Sampson, Mad Max: Fury Road, TV’s Shut Eye) are drawn into a new case set in Five Keys, New Mexico. Elise initially turns down the case when she discovers that the house being haunted is her childhood home, a place with horrific memories from Elise’s past, but she quickly realizes that she has a responsibility to help others, and her team sets off on a trip through Elise’s past, where she will encounter familiar entities and new horrors.

The great thing about the newest installment in this franchise is the focus on the character of Elise. It’s become quite clear after four films that the star of the series is Lin Shaye, and choosing to further develop her is a terrific idea, as much as I’m turned away by the prequel aspect of the recent two films. Shaye’s performance is a powerhouse of the genre, and we spend a lot of the film focused on her inner demons, particularly surrounding the relationship with her father, Gerald (Josh Stewart, Interstellar, War Machine).

The big feeling I felt leaving the theater was one of calmness, though, and the lack of true terror in the film is noticeable. The previous installments all kept me close to my seat, but The Last Key is missing a lot of that. While there are indeed some incredible moments in the film, there just isn’t enough to spur up any actual dread. Diehard horror fanatics may find themselves unfulfilled in this respect.

Thankfully, director Adam Robitel (The Taking of Deborah Logan) keeps the pace moving and the plot thread twisting and turning enough to make the movie interesting, but it just isn’t all that scary.

Insidious: The Last Key is a classic fourth installment, searching for a place of purpose and struggling to find a tone. The film is entertaining and I think it will please fans of the series looking to unravel the mystery, but the general public and hardcore horror hounds may not find this scary enough to please.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of James Wan’s Insidious, click here.

For my review of Leigh Whannell’s Insidious: Chapter 3, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 4 – Tales of Halloween (2015)

 

Directors: Darren Lynn Bousman, Axelle Carolyn, Adam Gierasch, Andrew Hasch, Neil Marshall, Lucky McKee, Mike Mendez, Dave Parker, Ryan Schifrin, John Skipp, Paul Solet

Cast: Adrienne Barbeau Grace Phipps, Lin Shaye, Booboo Stewart, Caroline Williams, Barbara Crampton, Greg Grunberg

Screenplay: Axelle Carolyn, Dave Parker, Clint Sears, Greg Commons, Lucky McKee, Molly Millions, John Skipp, Andrew Kasch, Mike Mendez, Ryan Schifrin, Neil Marshall

92 mins. Rated R for strong bloody horror violence throughout, language and brief drug use.

 

Okay, not a ton of time tonight so I will make it quick. Go to Netflix and watch Tales of Halloween. I’m not suggesting it because it’s perfect, but it is a hell of a lot of fun.

Tales of Halloween is an anthology of ten shorts all centered around the same town on Halloween night. Characters intersect occasionally throughout, and a lot of people are watching Night of the Living Dead. The tone is mostly horror comedy but each short feels all its own while still belonging to the collection. There are tremendously talented people both in front of and behind the camera, like directors Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II, Abattoir) and Neil Marshall (The Descent, Centurion).

I won’t get into what each short’s plot is, it is far more fun to see it all, but they are mostly independent while still serving a larger mythos, primarily aided by a Radio DJ (Adrienne Barbeau, The Fog, Beyond the Edge) and other elements. Most anthologies live by the “not-all-of-them-will-be-good syndrome” which is also true to this one, but unlike other anthologies, these pieces are less than ten minutes, so if you don’t like one, it doesn’t take away from the experience. The one unholy flaw of this film is the awful animated credits piece which feels ripped out of Creepshow III. The opening introduces the titles of each tale and its director, but I would have rather seen that before each piece begins in order to separate them more.

Tales of Halloween is imperfect, but dammit I enjoyed myself. There is a lot to love here (and a little to despise) but all well-attempted nonetheless. Check this one out as it will still likely be on Netflix.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Darren Lynn Bousman’s The Devil’s Carnival, click here.

For my review of Lucky McKee’s The Woman, click here.

For my review of Mike Mendez’s Big Ass Spider!, click here.

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 16 – Big Ass Spider! (2013)

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Director: Mike Mendez

Cast: Greg Grunberg, Lin Shaye, Patrick Bauchau, Ray Wise, Clare Kramer, Lombardo Boyar, Ruben Pla

Screenplay: Gregory Gieras

80 mins. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and gore.

 

Apparently Mike Mendez (The Gravedancers, Tales of Halloween) fought like hell to keep the title Big Ass Spider! He was right, though unfortunately there is little else to draw one in.

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Alex Mathis (Greg Grunberg, TV’s Heroes, Super 8) is an expert exterminator (ignore the part at the beginning where he is bit by an apparently lethal spider). His expertise comes to great importance as the hospital that he’s in has an extremely dangerous spider that quadruples in size at an alarming rate. Now, Alex and his de facto partner Jose (Lombardo Boyar, Happy Feet, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) attempt to stop the mammoth bug while a team of government agents led by Major Braxton C. Tanner (Ray Wise, RoboCop, The Lazarus Effect) attempt to blow it out of the sky, putting millions at risk.

This title brought me in. The film put me out. I actually really like Greg Grunberg but I don’t feel like he is ready to lead a movie, even one like Big Ass Spider! He is joined by Boyar who plays off as a cliché token Hispanic. The only man who plays to this film’s strengths is Wise, who delivers a goofy satire of the by-the-numbers Major. I also enjoyed the “cameo” by Lin Shaye (There’s Something About Mary, Insidious: Chapter 3).

Big Ass Spider! has some actually engaging effects, but the screenplay didn’t move along in any way that actually interested me, choosing to embrace its B-Movie possibilities rather poorly.

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All in all, get a laugh out of the fact that somebody actually made a movie called Big Ass Spider! No, you don’t actually have to watch the movie.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 2 – Insidious (2010)

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Director: James Wan

Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey

Screenplay: Leigh Whannell

103 mins. Rated PG-13 for thematic material, violence, terror and frightening images, and brief strong language.

 

On this second day of our 31 Days of Horror, I want to talk about a modern classic from one of my favorite filmmakers currently working: James Wan (Saw, Furious 7). The film is Insidious.

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The Lambert family is almost finished unpacking after their big move. Josh (Patrick Wilson, TV’s Fargo, The Conjuring) is busy with his new teaching position. Renai (Rose Byrne, X-Men: First Class, Spy) is juggling packing boxes, her infant child, and her struggling passion for music. But when her son Dalton mysterious enters a comatose state and she begins hearing loud noises and seeing suspicious figures around her home, she learns that her son has become a conduit that insidious and nefarious spirits are using to enter our realm. Now, Josh and Renai have enlisted the help of paranormal investigators Elise, Specs, and Tucker to rescue Dalton from a place called The Further.

Insidious is one of my absolute favorite recent horror films. Director James Wan utilizes tone and style to create his scares, launching some very effective jump scares because of it.

First of all, if you want to build an effective horror film, there are a few great ways to do it. Having Grade-A quality performers helps a lot. I’m talking about Wilson, Byrne, Barbara Hershey (Black Swan, Riding the Bullet), who plays Josh’s mother Lorraine, and of course veteran character actress Lin Shaye, who knocks it out of the park as Elise, the lead paranormal investigator.

The second way to build fear is through creating an effective and powerful tone. Wan balances his tone with heavy use of sound and music and juxtaposing them with scenes of more lighthearted fare featuring Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson).

Now, it’s true that the film forces fear through its sound work (often, the music cues the scare before the scare actually happens) and the final reveal of the beast vying for Dalton’s vessel (played by orchestrator Joseph Bishara) could’ve been better if not fully revealed, but these are minor flaws that lessen over multiple views.

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Insidious builds a mythology very solidly over the course of its runtime and inhabits its world with interesting characters and frightful apparitions. This is a great film for those filmgoers that can’t handle the gore of heavier films that we see in today’s horror films. Big buy.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Leigh Whannell’s Insidious: Chapter 3, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Furious 7, click here.

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 1 – Ouija (2014)

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Director: Stiles White

Cast: Olivia Cooke, Ana Coto, Daren Kagasoff, Douglas Smith, Bianca Santos, Shelley Hennig, Lin Shaye

Screenplay: Juliet Snowden, Stiles White

89 mins. Rated PG-13 for disturbing violent content, frightening horror images, and thematic elements.

 

Well, here we are again, folks! My favorite time of the year: Halloween and the month of scary movies! Let’s start this month off with the horror film Ouija, based on the Hasbro board game/spirit board of the same name.

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Laine Morris (Olivia Cooke, TV’s Bates Motel, The Signal) just lost her best friend to an apparent suicide. When she uncovers an old Ouija board the two used to play with as children, she gets the terrible idea to gather several friends in the old house and try to speak to the recently deceased Debbie (Shelley Hennig, TV’s Days of Our Lives, Unfriended), but who exactly are they talking to, and what do they want?

Ouija has to be one of the worst horror films in recent memory. I couldn’t tell you any details about the characters in the film because they aren’t actually characters but people merely sitting in a room. They aren’t even cliché characters (that I can deal with, in fact, I can expect it from a film like this), because they have no details or personality traits.

Director Stiles White gives us boring sequences meant to incite fear but merely flopping around on the screen totally uninspired. The deaths in the film don’t even have tension. The characters just kind of die. There is no fear because there isn’t a buildup. The eyes turn white (for no particular reason) and then they die. Nothing’s happening here.

For a film that runs 89 minutes, this movie felt like 3 hours. It feels like it has two directors, and in fact, it was mostly reshot, with some characters disappearing and reappearing with no consequence or impact on the story. Lin Shaye (Insidious, Big Ass Spider!) appears in one of the most wasted casting choices of the film. She is given nothing to do.

As for the music, it is used far too sparingly, and when it is, it sounds like a calmer version of the Insidious theme. Totally worthless.

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All in all, Ouija is a bad film to see at the beginning of the month because it actually challenged my beliefs in the future of horror. What the hell is this piece of garbage? Can somebody help! Please!

 

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

 

Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)

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Director: Leigh Whannell

Cast: Dermot Mulroney, Stefanie Scott, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell, Hayley Kiyoko, Lin Shaye

Screenplay: Leigh Whannell

97 mins. Rated PG-13 for violence, frightening images, some language and thematic elements.

 

Horror sequels are often looked at as a lesser film than the original. Horror prequels have it even worse. So how does Insidious: Chapter 3 (a sequel that is actually a prequel) stack up?

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Set two years before the haunting of the Lambert Family, Insidious: Chapter 3 follows Sean Brenner (Dermot Mulroney, TV’s Shameless, My Best Friend’s Wedding) and his daughter Quinn (Stefanie Scott, Wreck-It Ralph, No Strings Attached). Quinn has been trying to contact her deceased mother, but something else has reached back. She needs the help of gifted but retired paranormal investigator Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye, There’s Something About Mary, Ouija).

Being a prequel limits this installment to certain franchise pitfalls. Many prequels make the mistake of referencing future events in a tongue-in-cheek way. This is one area where, for the most part, the film doesn’t disappoint. There are two scenes at the end that make this mistake, but the earlier sequences of the film that make reference to the Lamberts and the haunting. It is a smart decision to tell an original story within the series as opposed to tell a story that leads directly the opening of the first installment.

New director Whannell, known for writing the first three installments of the Saw franchise, Dead Silence, and all three Insidious films, takes over for directing partner James Wan who makes a cameo known but was busy on Furious 7 at the time. He does a somewhat mediocre job handling the many hats of a filmmaker, but there is some serious potential here. The film’s scary sequences are hit-and-miss, but Whannell shows that he can learn from mistakes, so I have faith in his abilities.

The big winner here is Lin Shaye, who has an exploding career so far into her career. She carries this film so well that it is easy to overlook many of the failures, and it is fun to see her initial interactions with Tucker (Angus Sampson, TV’s Fargo, Mad Max: Fury Road) and Specs (played by Whannell).

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Insidious: Chapter 3 is the third best film in this franchise. It stumbles at times but shows definite talent for its cast and crew. I can see the forward trajectory of this series making its mark. Fans of the series should enjoy themselves; everyone else need not apply.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of Insidious: Chapter 3? Did it take you Further or did you sleep well after? Let me know!

 

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