Insidious: The Last Key REVIEW – Death by Exposition

© Universal Pictures

Insidious: The Last Key is a moist wad of garbage. It’s a flat and passionless film, seemingly built from the ground up to condescend its audience. I almost ruptured a vessel in my eye watching it. I hoped that Keyface (check the credits, that’s really his name) would crawl out of the screen and scoop out my eardrums so I wouldn’t have to listen to the dialogue anymore. This film is basically a long series of telegraphed jump-scares with cookie-cutter characters, interspersed with exposition dumps.

A very basic principle of screenwriting is called “show vs. tell”. The failure to understand when to show something and when to resort to exposition dumps is the key to the failure of Insidious: The Last Key. See what I did there? Key? Would you like me to explain it again? Of course not, one time was too many. Basically, because film is a visual medium, the most effective way to convey information to the audience is by showing them visual cues rather than having a character explain a bunch of stuff.

Insidious: The Last Key is desperately boring because the audience is rarely given something to look at, and instead they’re given someone to listen to. Imagine meeting a stranger who suddenly gives you a lecture on her entire life story, but without the most interesting parts, and that’s what watching this movie is like. The characters occupy long static shots where they give emotionless lectures that include most of the relevant information, and some more information that’s not relevant.

Insidious: The Last Key has some of the least interesting characters I’ve ever seen in a movie. That’s not an exaggeration, because each one of them is about half of a clichéd character you’ve already seen before. Apparently the plan was to rely on the audience’s knowledge of tropes to build the characters with minimal effort. Exploiting peoples’ expectations by subverting tropes is great, but here they’re used to cut corners. There’s the weird and somewhat creepy geek character, but he’s just that stereotype and not an actual character. There’s also the other geek character who’s a lot nicer even though he’s uncomfortable around women and…that’s it. Then there’s the protagonist, whose apparent purpose in life is to sit still and explain things in lengthy monologues that stop the plot’s momentum like emergency breaks. They’re clichéd characters that don’t even succeed at being clichéd.

Easily the worst part of Insidious: The Last Key is its dialogue. It’s shockingly bad. The protagonist, a generic old lady whose personality adds nothing to the movie, directly delivers much of the plot through exposition dumps. Whenever something happens that doesn’t make any sense, which is often, there’s a still shot of her explaining everything. This ties back to that whole “show vs. tell” thing, because this movie tries to simply tell you as much as possible and that makes it an absolute drag to watch. Not everyone in the theater with me was able to finish it, and they’d already paid for tickets. If I wanted to sit still for two hours and watch an elderly expert in a field that doesn’t interest me explain the context of some situation with no emotion whatsoever, then I’d just sit in on a college class. The Last Key faces many of the same challenges that teachers do, but at least they have something to say in the end.

Almost every bad film, especially this one, does too much telling and not enough showing. In The Last Key, all vital information is repeatedly explained to the audience through monologues by clichéd characters with no personality.

I dislike this movie for the exact reason that I dislike sitting in a classroom: some one-dimensional stranger I’ve never met before starts handing me unwieldy piles of information that I never asked for, on a topic I have no interest in. Remember that whenever you write a story, and it’ll take you very little effort to make something better than this.

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