Insidious The Last Key continued to make a case for not being the final chapter in the ongoing horror franchise. The $10 million Blumhouse horror sequel, distributed by Universal/Comcast Corp. in North America and Sony overseas, has earned a solid $58 million domestic and $126m worldwide in 17 days of global release. That’s not a barn-burner figure by any stretch of the imagination, but A) it’s already bigger than Happy Death Day ($55m/$115m late last year) and B) it’s already a bigger global and domestic gross than the first ($55m/$96m) and third ($52m/$113m) Insidious movies.
Oh, and it’s also a new record-holder for the biggest horror movie to be released in the first weekend of the year.
As you know if you’ve followed along, there has been something of an unofficial pattern of releasing somewhat schlocky horror movies in the first weekend of January.
It’s become something of a palette cleanser between the big holiday blockbusters and the MLK weekend biggies than more-or-less “start” the new year. This goes back at least to Michael Keaton’s White Noise in January of 2005, whereby the film opened with $24 million on its way to a $56m domestic and $91m worldwide cume for Universal. Eli Roth’s Hostel opened the year with a $19m debut in 2006 on its way to a $48m domestic/$80m worldwide cume (on a $5m budget) for Lionsgate, and the pattern continued from there.
Some years the movies were merely horror-ish (Season of the Witch in 2011 and Underworld: Blood Wars in 2017) and some of these films were better (Daybreakers) than others (One Missed Call). The Devil Inside snagged a $34 million debut in early 2012 but crashed to just $56m domestic and $101m worldwide (on a $1m budget) for Paramount/Viacom Inc. Up until yesterday, the biggest-grossing of these films remained White Noise in North America and The Devil Inside worldwide. But Insidious: The Last Key just passed both films in both categories of the relevant box office.
I don’t think Insidious 4 is going to get to White Noise’s inflation-adjusted $80 million domestic total. Once it gets past $66m (the adjusted total for Hostel), it’ll be number two in inflation-adjusted figures. And yeah, it’s now way ahead of The Devil Inside’s $101m worldwide total, and it’s clearly not finished yet. So, even if it’s mere trivia, Insidious, which has become (fairly or not) a kind of Conjuring Jr. over the past few years, has its own place in the record books. So, yeah, we’re getting a fifth Insidious film in a few years.
More importantly, it again shows that the right movie can do well almost anywhere. Even though the first weekend of January has a reputation for bottom-of-the-barrel horror schlock (Daybreakers is an exception), Insidious: The Last Key was, by default, one of the better such offerings during this week. And, with no horror titles since Happy Death Day in mid-October, the film fed into a demand while capitalizing on theatrical horror’s current hot streak. And, yeah, that this film starred 74-year old Lin Shaye (who has a horror resume going back to 1982), kicking supernatural ass and taking names, as opposed to the standard nubile teens, college kids or pre-teens, made it stand out from the crowd.
We’ll see if a similar hook turns Helen Mirren’s Winchester: The House that Ghosts Built into an early February hit for Lionsgate and CBS Films. So yeah, this isn’t the most important box office news of the day. But as someone who has been noting this unofficial pattern for well over a decade, it was amusing to see a comparatively A-level franchise title do comparatively A-level business in a slot usually reserved for C-level flicks. Come what may, Elise Rainier will return in… uh… Insidious: Hey, We Totally Found Another Key!The Last Key takes the franchise in the direction of one of its oldest and most beloved characters, Dr Elise Rainier played by Lin Shaye, one of the secondary characters from the first three Insidious films who finally takes centre stage in this one. The film serves as a prequel to the first two Insidious films and a sequel to Insidious 3.
It follows Dr Rainier during her early days as a paranormal investigator as she sets up shop with her fellow compatriots, Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), following the events of Insidious 3. Her latest assignment though takes her right back to her childhood house in New Mexico which forces her to confront many demons from her past that she thought she had left behind. A number of flashbacks flesh out her story and give us context into her troubled past.The most disappointing thing about The Last Key is perhaps how hopelessly detached it feels from the other Insidious films. The premise could have been interesting but instead it just feels contrived and rote, which results in a film that’s just as contrived and rote.Exploring Dr Rainier’s character definitely provides the film with an interesting story of repressed horrors, elevated by a top-notch performance by Shaye.
But what holds it back is director Adam Robitel’s (The Taking of Deborah Logan) constant penchant to go for the jump-scares which feels like over-kill at this point and diminishes any chances of character development or suspense. As a result, many of the film’s sub-plots feel undercooked and the film itself doesn’t feel much different than the mediocre bunch of horror films we are all used to seeing every year. When the film tries to incorporate the themes of the previous films, it loses sight of the story, which more than anything feels awkward and unnecessary in the first place.
The latest chapter of the Insidious franchise hit theaters last weekend, taking home $29 million domestically. The film received poor critical reviews, while fans had mixed reactions, with some of the more interesting responses being bewilderment that many of the visuals featured in the film’s trailer didn’t make the film’s final cut. Director Adam Robitel promised these scenes would make it to the Blu-ray.
“Are all of the scenes in the trailer that were promisingly advertised but nowhere to be found in THE LAST KEY going to be on the Blu-ray???” one fan asked the director on Twitter. Robitel replied, “Yes, they will. For pacing purposes they were removed… as sad as it made me.”Countless films have tweaked a final edit in between a trailer being created and the film finally arriving in theaters, yet when the disturbing visuals from a trailer are what you’re looking forward to, it’s easy to be frustrated that these scenes don’t appear in a final cut.
Questioning where certain scenes went wasn’t the only response the film received on Twitter this past weekend, as franchise co-creator James Wan took to the social media platform to praise this latest installment.The filmmaker also made sure to joke about writer Leigh Whannel’s script, as the series regularly interjects humor amongst all of its horrors.Much to the film’s credit though, the extensive flash-back sequences which explore Elise’s childhood give an interesting insight into her character as well as the story. And Shaye’s performance as Dr Rainier is without a doubt the best thing about the film, especially considering the fact that horror franchises almost never get a 74-year-old actress to play a ghost-hunting heroine.
While Whannell and Sampson do well in bringing a fair bit of comic relief to the film in the brief moments they are on the screen as Dr Rainier’s side-kicks Specs and Tucker.Ultimately though, Insidious: The Last Key fails to hold a candle to its predecessors and serves as a mostly disappointing sequel/prequel for the otherwise successful franchise that’s let down by the usual bag of horror movie clichés. It’s scary but in the most superficial way possible, and that kind of bargain-bin horror isn’t something you haven’t seen before.