(On Cable TV, January 2019) There’s something almost endearing in the way that the Insidious horror franchise has doubled upon itself to focus on a character played by an elderly woman. Once again in Insidious: The Last Key, Lin Shaye truly stars in as a psychic medium in this prequel instalment showing us a previous big case, one with very personal implications in the grand tradition of horror series making sure that every single detail of its mythology has been cross-referenced against their character’s biography. By the end, it all leads straight back to the first film of the series like clockwork, because these are movies rather than TV show episodes, right? If you sense dripping sarcasm, it’s largely because this Insidious feels like the series has grown content to simply going over the same familiar landmarks once more. We’re filling smaller and smaller holes in a backstory that didn’t need any backfilling, and it’s become more claustrophobic than entertaining. Under director Adam Robitel, the scares are strictly routine, and the story’s few highlights aren’t enough to push back the impression of encroaching deja vu. Shaye remains a highlight, and there are some good moments in the interactions that she has with her two sidekicks … but the point of the movie is having another hit of what worked so well in the first film of the series no matter if it becomes steadily less impressive. Let the series go, producers. It’s run its course.
(On Cable TV, February 2016) The first Insidious was a welcome throwback to straightforward horror; the second one kept some of the thrills but presented a much duller result. With this Insidious: Chapter 3, however, we’re well into the logic of diminishing returns. The first warning sign is that it’s a prequel, forced to go back in time in order to keep Lin Shaye’s character alive and kicking. What we laboriously discover is that this third Insidious is meant to show how the demon-hunting team came together: No one apparently stopped to consider whether we cared. It’s not as if the nuts-and-bolts specifics of this third film’s plot actually matter a lot: Insidious 3 is routine even by horror standards, and has almost entirely dismantled what made the first-and-a-half Insidious so special. I forgot good chunks of the plot mere days after seeing the film even as I can still quote chunks of the previous instalments. Lin Shaye is good as the lead demon hunter, even if the rest of the film is unremarkable. But whoever expected a third instalment in a horror series to be actually any good?