Horror films mean big profits, even for the ones that don’t become blockbusters. Since such films often cast unknown actors and keep high-ticket special effects to a minimum, you can make one for around 5 million bucks. Due to such a comparatively low budget, even less-than fully successful films can still at least turn a profit. And the ones that do hit (usually by attracting that sought-after teenaged female demographic) can truly knock one out of the park, with 2016’s “Lights Out” from Warner Bros./New Line being a prime example: made for $4.9 million, it went on to make more than 30 times that modest budget, with a worldwide take north of $148 million.
And when you create such a property that also has sequel potential, you milk it for all its worth. Case in point: the “Insidious” film franchise has grossed more than $357 million worldwide, hence a fourth installment, “Insidious: The Last Key” (2018).
Picking up after the events of unimpressive “Insidious: Chapter 3” – which was a prequel to the first, critically-acclaimed film – this fourth film relies so heavily on the previous installments that it may not make much sense if you haven’t seen them. Then again, its weaksauce climatic showdown doesn’t make much sense even if you have, filled with enough ghostly deus ex machina gobbledygook to feel like one massive, eye-rolling cheat to the perceived stakes.
Which is unfortunate since “The Last Key” starts strong, enlisting a minimal amount of jump-scares and a solid backstory for the franchise’s septuagenarian staple, psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye). At least the first and superior installment boasted Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson in lead roles; now we’re stuck with series sidekicks and comic-relief, Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (Leigh Whannell, who also wrote “The Last Key”).
It also doesn’t help that the remainder of the film is reserved for a quick wrap-up to major plot-points and the shoehorned obligatory sequel service. So the bad news is that this fourth film is more like the 3rd one and less like the first. But the good news is that the next film may bring a return to the form of the first film, and possibly include the return of Byrne and Wilson.
But without that promise, “The Last Key” should have been the last one.
INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY
Release Date: January 5, 2018
Runtime: 1 hrs. 43 min.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for disturbing thematic content, violence and terror, brief strong language, and a brief weak ending.