Returning Home to Unroot Evil! “Insidious: The Last Key” review!


Hot off the Quinn Brenner case, parapsychologist Elise Rainier receives a phone call from Ted Garza regarding paranormal activity at his house in Four Keys, New Mexico. The location happens to be the childhood home of Elise, where her father viciously abused Elise to stop her supernatural gifts and also where her mother was brutally murdered by a fearsome and hatred-energized demon known as KeyFace. Reluctant to return where memories revel in persistent and continuous nightmares, Elise and her two eager assistances, Tucker and Specs, take the case to aid the Garza’s request for a cleanse and to conclude the haunting and scarring chapter in Elise’s life, but the demon yearns power by luring Elise back to where it all began. With the help of her brother and two nieces, Elise’s family and friends aim to be a force against pure and undiluted evil hidden in the further.

Full disclosure….Insidious: Chapters 2 and 3 is not in my well versed cache of watched movies. I thoroughly enjoyed the atmospheric hit that is James Wan’s 2011 “Insidious” film starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, and the incredible Lin Shaye, but since that time, neither of the sequels have wandered into my unsystematic path. Except now. “Insidious: The Last Key” is the latest installment to the “Insidious” franchise and universe that’s directed by Adam Robitel, screenwriter of “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” and written by franchise writer Leigh Whannell. In the grand scheme of chronological viewing, catching “The Last Key” first won’t divert and confuse too much from those on a methodical storyline timeline. Robitel’s chapter is a sequel to the prequel, “Insidious: Chapter 3,” and aside from an Easter egg here and there, there’s little reference and nothing substantial bonding to the next two films that are in sequential order.

Lin Shaye returns to reprise her role as parapsychologist Elise Rainier for the fourth time, picking up her character’s telepathic shtick like it was yesterday. Shaye’s one of acting talents that just flourishes like wild fire no matter what the type of role or movie she’s in or even affiliated with. Her ability to adapt and to get down and dirty with her characters proves why we love her thespian range from bust-a-gut comedies like “There’s Something About Mary” to indie horrors like “Dead End.” The now 74-year-old actress is more red hot now than ever as Elise Rainier whose even more popularized by her co-stars, writer, Leigh Whannell and and Angus Sampson as Specs and Tucker, whom like Shaye have reprised their roles for a fourth time. The comedic duo lighten up the dark toned premise, offering up dad jokes and snickering hairdos to offset to jump scares and gnarly KeyFace. Spencer Locke (“Resident Evil: Extinction”), Caitlin Gerard (“Smiley”), and the original 1971 Willard, Bruce Davison, play the supporting cast of Rainiers long lost, reunited family members caught in the middle of her quest for conclusion. Rounding out the cast is Kirk Acevedo (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”), Tessa Ferrer, Josh Stewart (“The Collector”), and contortionist, and Doug Jones’ Spanish rival, Javier Botet as KeyFace.

“Insidious: The Last Key” works on many positive levels: has a solid premise with Elise burning to finish the nightmare she had unleashed many years ago, subplots involving Ted Garza’s role and Elise’s abusive father, a dysfunctional family relationship between all the Rainiers, and some serious eye-popping scares throughout. The further also opens up more and becomes a vast area for exploration into all the creatures, ghosts, and demons that lurk in the otherworldly dimension, setting up future sequels and/or spinoffs. What doesn’t work as well is the rather anemic and lackluster climatic finale that took KeyFace from an extremely high frightfully monstrous pedastal, continuously building up the character to be the most powerful antagonist Elise has yet to encounter, and have the rug pulled right from under it’s horrid feet by squandering it formidability, flattening it with the single uppercut swing of a… lantern.

Adam Robitel’s “Insidious: The Last Key” finds a home on a Blu-ray plus Digital HD combo release by Sony Pictures and Universal Home Entertainment. The release is presented in high definition 1080p with a widescreen, 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The image quality just tops out with overly spooky cool blue hue that’s gloomy, dark, and ominous, all the attributes perfect for a supernatural thriller, while managing to sharply define the details on the actors and their surroundings. The English 5.1 DTS-HD track stings where jump scares are prevalent and appropriate. Dialogue has clarity with mild ambiance supporting the localized and conventional horror audible moments while brawny LFE bursts on-screen in a bombardment of scare tactics whenever KeyFace suddenly shows face. Bonus features include an alternate ending (complete with cheesy one-liner from Lin Shaye), eight deleted scenes, a look into the “Insidious” universe, going into The Further, Lin Shaye becoming parapsychologist Elise Rainier, and a segment entitled “Meet the New Demon – Unlocking the Keys” to KeyFace. Perhaps not the epitome of the franchise, but “Insidious: The Last Key” absolutely fits into the franchise’s ever expanding universe and unlocks more of the spine-tingling backstory to one of horror’s contemporary and unremitting heroines ready to confront evil.

“Insidious: The Last Key” purchase at Amazon!

Evil Gets Wild! “Cub” review!

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A troop of cub scouts set out on a camping trip in the deep forests near an abandoned bus factory. At the helm are three scout masters overseeing a handful of lively young cub scouts. One of children, Sam, has been through a troubled and violent past and has been labeled the outcast amongst the rest of the troop. Sam encounters a feral young boy, who has been trained by a murderous psychopath whom has made the woods his deadly home. As nobody believes Sam’s run-in with the wild boy whose been stealing around camp, the troop hastily concludes that Sam is lying and stealing, resulting in the trop disliking him even more all the while setting up their fate for something far much worse: a killer camping trip.
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Booby traps. Children vs. Children. Outside nude showering. An ingenious killer. Fun and newfangled horror has made it’s grand return since “The Collector!” Freshman director Jonas Govaerts, with a boat load of crowd funded money, has brought a keen eye to the campy, wooded survival genre with his independent film “Cub” aka “Welp” in the films original French/Flemish language. Going through the motions of setting up character development and moving the characters seamlessly into a ominous situation is what seems to come natural to director Govaerts. Unnaturally, Govaerts doesn’t explore the psychotic background of such an interesting, yet mysterious killer, leaving everything about the antagonist’s intentions to the imagination. This villain, only known as the “psychopathic mentor” on the Artsploitation Films Blu-ray back cover, maintains a dated, yet marathon technique killing spree operation underground in the dark woods, setting up crafty and deadly traps for those who embark on his land. There’s a little tidbit of setup on the killer from an officer explaining to the scout masters that the vacant nearby factory has made some previous employees disgruntled, making the land a cursed hotspot.
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“Cub’s” success mainly stems from it’s actors. Gill Eeckelaert, who has only “Cub” credited under his name, phenomenally creates a superbly feral and masked boy, surviving on the land and in the trees. With a scrawny physique and zero dialogue, Eeckelaert has formed a eerily scary character, more so than the actual menacing mentor. In all honesty, the feral boy should have been the main antagonist pitted against the troop. This character’s counterpart, Sam, played by Maurice Luijten is the epitome of good, yet something is off with the character as told with seldom sharing of the information about his past, his foster parents, his damaged photograph, and the list goes on. While a clear picture of Sam never fully emerges until the finale, the good that bubbles up from his character couldn’t be any more prominent as he’s contrast next to the constant bully shadow of a scout master named Baloo and his mindless troop of followers, looking to be cool in the Baloo’s perverted and unorthodox eyes. With only a handful of ally accompaniments on this trip, those who wish Sam harm outweigh those who want to protect him.
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With the “Lord of the Flies” similar attitude and with more than half your cast under the puberty requirement age, Govaerts ruthlessly places every single person in danger and places every single character on the chopping block. There’s no sugar-coated dancing around the innocent minors, making them actually part of the organic story instead of pussyfooting around them as if they’re made of fragile, non-tempered glass. However, I do feel the opportunity was completely wasted or missed to take out each individual character one-by-one with a signature death scene, but I don’t believe the effect of certain character or characters being dispatched watered down the “oh my god” value.
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The Artsploitation Blu-ray has a beautiful 2.35:1 ratio, widescreen presentation with only very little aliasing detected and the night scenes just as clear as the day scenes. The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix flawlessly contributes to the overall impact of the story, creating a great balance between LFE and HFE, dialogue, soundtrack, and ambient tracks while providing accurate and well-timed English subtitles. The superb giallo-esque score by Steve Moore, who goes under the pseudo name of Gianni Rossi and worked on “Gutterballs”, delivers an intense, on the edge of your seat synth rendition of danger and chase. “Cub” director Jonas Govaerts and his crew earns their merit badges for constructing a bloody and innovative film. Another winning release for Artsploitation Films and another recommendation from this reviewer.

Evil Dwelling: Horror Icons of the 21st Century?

After watching The Collector, I started to think about how potential horror icons of the 21st century seem to shrivel up, fizzle, and dissolve away into nothing halting a potentially worthy horror franchise into spit – yeah, spit. The franchise runners – Jason Voorhees of Friday the 13th, Michael Myers of Halloween, Freddy Kruger of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Leatherface of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Chucky of Child’s Play, Pinhead of Hellraiser – are good examples of horror icons and their franchise titles; yet the trend has seem to fade away, perhaps we are seeing the last of franchise horror icon and their time as reigning champs is on the way out. I like to think that this lack of a long hauling series is giving an opportunity for new blood, but the majority of horror movies the past decade don’t have the staying power nor do they have enough support to have a sequel every other year. I’d like to share with you my thoughts on current horror franchise icons and some possible contenders for the future.

Ghostface

I like my knife.

Who is probably the face of franchise horror of the 2000s, Ghostface became a household horror name, easily becoming an icon without really trying. The simple use of black and white and an abstract of Edvard Munch’s portrait woven with the mind of Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson catapulted the franchise from the 1996 all the way to 2011. The icon has made it’s mark in the Halloween costume market, memorabilia shelves and was even homaged in an unofficial video game that pitted horror icon versus horror icon called Terrordome. The Ghostface killer can be anybody, can out swift anybody and can rise from the grave over and over again (much like his icon predecessors). However, Ghostface stays human and never has been backed by evil powers to contribute to his killing spree success (much unlike his icon predecessors).

Jigsaw

Every channel has Jigsaw – gosh!

Where Ghostface became the face of an horror icon of the millennium. Jigsaw most certainly was the presence that absorbed the rest of the icon persona of the 2000s. Ghostface had the healthy braun, Jigsaw had the killer mental capacity. The ailing killer engineer masterfully justified his kills by righting wrong by committing extreme self-judgments. Even after death, Jigsaw had a lasting impression upon his followers who carried out his deeds for him. For seven consecutive Halloweens, Jigsaw has made an appearance on the big screen. While most fans have probably had enough of Jigsaw for at least another seven years, there are some die hard Saw fans itching for more traps, more blood and more Jigsaw and his creepy doll.

Victor Crowley

A face only a mother can love.

Louisiana back-woods, swamp thing Victor Crowley is a deformed tortured soul that will never sleep until every single person who trespasses is ripped to bloody shreds with his bare hands or, of course, hatchet. Crowley came on the scene in 2006. Adam Green brought the slasher back. Green gave Crowley a tragic backstory much like Jason Voorhees. A boy who is teased to the point of his almost death only to rise again to embark on a murder crusade. Victor Crowley initial success might be his downfall. Much like how Wes Craven played out the Scream with sequel two (it was okay) and sequel three (damn near stank), Hatchet II was garbage in comparison. One could only hope Green took a step back and reviewed Crowley’s flaws to bounce the deranged maniac back to spilling more blood than ever.

The Creeper

Be a part of me!

Never have I really cared for Victor Silva, but his creation, The Creeper, has to be one of, if not the, best horror character icons ever. With intelligence, attitude and a knack for resurrection, The Creeper has it all. Two films are under this potential franchiser’s belt with a possible third movie continuously being hinted at and unlike perhaps Hatchet, the fans want the winged creature back and possible this year…so sources say. Lets all hope that The Creeper will piece himself back together, from the body parts of his future victims, and return to more rural terror!

The Collector

You'd like nice in my Collection!

You’d like nice in my Collection!

The Collector had sparked this whole notion about more modern horror icons. With The Collection release, I’m anxious to see what kind of hobbies The Collector has in store. At first, I’ve brushed The Collector dismissing it as another run of the mill slasher flick. That is not the kind of horror blogger I strive to be, but one can get discouraged by most of the junk horror that surrounds us. I’m glad I have Jayson Kennedy in my life (or at least as a friend on my Facebook). I trust Jayson’s word so much that on his positive views of The Collector, I could not wait to get my hands on this interesting character. Marcus Dunstan’s and Patrick Melton’s icon has a bright future. Don’t get him mixed up with Jigsaw as The Collector is more of a perverse character whereas Jigsaw was a teacher of sorts. This is what makes The Collector an even more mysterious character.

Chromeskull

Slice and dice with a smile.

Laid to Rest was a sleeper. Loved the viciousness and the tenacity in brutally murdering people and using a camera to relive the experience over and over. Must like Adam Green, Chromeskull is the one trick pony of Robert Hall which could hinder Chromeskull’s career as a franchise killer! If there was ever another sequel, the story and the effects would really have to blow us, and the critics, out of the water if Chromeskulll wishes to return and return and return from the grave. Chromeskull’s mysterious ways his frightening and his appearance is reminisce of an 90’s slasher, but unlike those decade slashers Chromeskull has the most potential in the 2000s.

Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, can you think of any other franchise or potentially franchise icons that sparked in the turn of the century?

Evil Thoughts. The Collector (2009)

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The Collector could be one of the next iconic horror villains of the 21st century.  You don’t see too many “repeat offenders” as you might have in the 80s and 90s with Freddy Kruger or Michael Myers.  Instead, you have Victor Crowley and The Collector – who else is out there?  There are probably more, but that is another topic I might have to explore later on in a separate topic.

The Collector feels like Saw – no doubt about that.  Since I knew the script was written by Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, there were most likely going to be some similarities.  When I did some research, I saw that The Collector was a scrapped idea for a Saw prequel.  I’m sure if that ever came to fruition, nobody would have noticed this flick.  The Collector can stand by itself without the the help of Jigsaw, but the traps are all there; however, we don’t have the sob story of the cancer ridden engineer.  Instead, the killer has little to no mercy and sadistic beyond rational.  The Collector has no backstory and that is welcome – we don’t need to know his name, his origin or he reason on why he does what he does.

The Collector Region 1 USA Blu-ray

I’m amped for the sequel.  I can’t wait for more traps.  Josh Steward is the Heather Lampkincamp of The Collector.  I just hope The Collector isn’t dumb down in the sequel and reduced to a mediocre way of trying to earn a buck for the writers of Saw who by then wouldn’t be able to sell a script without it coming off like a Saw ripoff.  Lets hope for the best, lets dream for The Collector will be as original as we all wish it to be and lets try to keep an open mind about sequels.  Fans know that sequels can make or break a character – for The Collector’s sake, we hope that The Collection will make the character and set him for many more sequels to come.