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Fourth installment in this franchise is again a prequel, this one taking place just before the events of the first film. First, it opens in 1953 and shows us a young Elise (Ava Kolker) in her childhood home showing her psychic abilities much to the anger of her abusive father (Josh Stewart). We relive a horrifying event and then are taken forward to 2010 where an adult Elise (Lin Shaye) is called by the current occupant of her old childhood house to investigate some paranormal activity. Now Elise must overcome her inner fear and go back to that house and not only relive those awful memories, but find out some horrifying truths as well.

Flick is again written by Leigh Whannell, who also appears as “Specs”, but this time directed by Adam Robitel (The Taking of Deborah Logan). Robitel brings atmosphere and provides some spooky moments, though the series is starting to show signs of loosing steam. It is interesting to go into Elise’s past and see where this all began, but even so, the backstory isn’t enough to freshen things up completely. The story is well presented and we get the tension between Elise and the estranged brother (Bruce Davison) she left behind when she walked away from her father and that house, but despite the dramatic weight of this being a very personal investigation for Elise, we still feel it could have been stronger. The final showdown in The Further with the house’s reigning specter should have had more intensity. The evil entity lacks weight with being given little to no backstory and is kept on the sidelines till the last act. Still, it is well directed and shows, with a stronger script, Robitel could deliver a spooky and atmospheric film. This flick does have some good moments, including a fairly shocking reveal and there was a purveying sense of dread whenever the action took place inside the house. The film is entertaining, it’s just that it may be time to let this franchise rest in peace, or bring in new blood both creatively and on camera. We are introduced to Elise’s psychic niece Imogen (Caitlin Gerard from Smiley), so maybe such plans are already in place. It’s hard to do much with Elise when they killed her off in the first film, which in hindsight was a big mistake.

Lin Shaye is once again in top form as Elise. She is a great character and the actress gives the role lots of heart. She’s very likable and despite her experiences, she’s still vulnerable and can be scared. She makes the character very endearing which would explain her continual return in prequels. Angus Sampson and Leigh Whannell are fine as Tucker and Specs, but it’s Elise’s show and they are wisely kept to side-kick duties. Bruce Davison is a class act and is sympathetic as her emotionally wounded brother, Christian. Josh Stewart is detestable as Elise’s dad and both Spencer Locke and Caitlin Gerard are likable as Melissa and Imogen, Elise’s nieces. A solid cast.

This was a good effort in many ways, just unfortunately in a franchise running out of gas. They gave us some nice backstory on Elise and made the story more personal, but the adventures in The Further and even it’s Key Face (Javier Botet) demon are routine and showing series wear and tear. Adam Robitel added atmosphere and handles the spookiness well, but Leigh Whannell’s script fails to freshen things up despite a more Elise-centric story. Overall, it was entertaining enough, but not going to win new fans and will have current ones questioning how much longer they are going to stick around for “Further” adventures.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 spooks.





The fourth flick in the Insidious franchise is subtitled The Last Key and is slated to arrive on January 5th, 2018. For now we get a trailer and it does look kinda spooky. This one is again written by Leigh Whannell, but this time directed by Adam Robitel, who directed the very creepy The Taking of Deborah Logan. Series star Lin Shaye also returns in the flesh, which seems to imply it is another prequel.

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This creepy found footage horror starts out with an interesting story that supports the constant filming. Student Mia (Michelle Ang) is doing a thesis film on the effects of Alzheimer’s and is going to use an older woman named Deborah Logan (Jill Larson), who has been diagnosed with the early stages of the disease, as her subject. Debbie and her daughter Sarah (Anne Ramsey) have agreed to this thanks to grant money from the school and let Mia and her two man crew into their spacious old home to film their lives. They set cameras up all over the house to document the sad effects of this ailment on Deborah’s life, as the disease progresses. As Mia and crew continue to document, though, Deborah starts to exhibit some very alarming behavior and soon it begins to appear as if there is something else taking control of the woman…something dark, malevolent and with very ill-intentions.

This is one horror flick that will make your skin crawl! Directed by Adam Robitel, from his script with Gavin Heffernan, this is not only a really effective use of found footage, but a film that can push your buttons to unsettling degrees. The sad effects of Deborah’s Alzheimer’s is heartbreaking enough to give you chills, in the early scenes, but when she starts exhibiting more bizarre and violent behavior, the goose-bumps start to appear quickly and frequently. Robitel simply gets maximum effect out of the woman’s behavior and aided by a knock-out performance by Jill Larson, this movie is downright disturbing and on a consistent basis. The film only looses it’s grip somewhat in the last act when the action is taken out of the Larson home and into a hospital and then a wooded area. At that point it gets a bit more theatrical and wasn’t as intimately spooky, but there is still enough to chill such as Deborah kidnapping a young children’s cancer patient for some nefarious purpose. Involving a child who is already a victim of a horrid disease is just downright disturbing…but never crosses the line into exploitation. Robitel really knows how to set up some unsettling scenes, both subtly and more dramatically and does so often. There is some effective blood and gore as well and some imagery that will stick with you long after the film is over. A very impressive debut from Adam Robitel and one of the most effective found footage horrors in quite some time.

As for the cast, lead Jill Larson, as said, really makes this work with an absolutely strong…and really disturbing performance, as Deborah. She portrays, at first, a sweet older woman, who is sadly coming under the effects of Alzheimer’s and she conveys this in a way that immediately evokes our sympathy. It’s just heartbreaking to watch the look on her face after she’s done something odd and she realizes it. When her behavior starts to get more and more malevolent and bizarre, the body language and hateful glares this woman uses to convey her possessed state is truly bone-chilling work. A wonderful performance. Anne Ramsey is also good as daughter Sarah, but, she is a familiar face and thus weakens the overall illusion that this is real footage of real people. Cute Michelle Ang is fine as Mia, giving us that ambitious student out to make an impression, but she also seems to legitimately care about Deborah and gets emotionally involved when things get spooky. Brent Gentile is one of her crew, Gavin. The character is a bit whiny, but in this case, I’m not sure I blame him and Gentile is perfectly suitable. Rounding out, we have Jeremy DeCarlos as cameraman Luis, who is hardly ever seen, Ryan Cutrona as Deborah’s loyal, caring and yet somewhat mysterious neighbor and Anne Bedian as Deborah’s doctor, Dr. Nazir. All support the leads adequately with Cutrona standing out a bit in the secondary cast.

In short, this is one creepy as hell flick! First-time director Adam Robitel really knows how to create some very disturbing imagery and scenes that will chill you to the bone. He’s not afraid to “go there” and use sensitive subjects in his horror story, yet never exploits them; they are part of the story and effectively used. It’s one of the best found footage films in sometime and Robitel proves he’s a director/writer to watch. View this film with the lights out and prepare to be chilled!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) garden spades!

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