Insidious: The Last Key

What a strange franchise Insidious became. It began as a clever, creepy Poltergeist knock-off with James Wan‘s effective, entertaining first film. Then it…kind of went off the rails. Now, here we are, with the supposedly final film in the series. At least, I certainly hope so, because Insidious has run out of ideas. It’s clear that Insidious was never really planned as a series, because the first film killed off the character Elise (Lin Shaye), only to then decide they wanted her to become the franchise’s main character. As a result, every Insidious sequel (except Insidious Chapter 2) has been a prequel.

Insidious: The Last Key delves further into Elise’s background, and reveals her abusive childhood. It also has her dealing with a scary demon known as Keyface (!). Insidious: The Last Key is a bit of a mess. So much so that the film throws in a subplot about a would-be-serial-killer, then quickly wraps it up the minute we find out about it midway through the film. Still, if you’ve stuck with this franchise this long and have continued to enjoy it, you’ll likely find something to like here. There are one or two effective scares here, and Shaye continues to make a compelling, unlikely lead. But please, let this series shuffle back off to The Further now. Enough is enough.

Special Features To Note

Among the special features on the Insidious: The Last Key Blu-ray is an alternate ending set in the “Further Prison.” It’s not much better than the film’s actual ending. Beyond that, you’ll find 8 deleted scenes and three featurettes. One is devoted solely to Lynn Shaye and her performance, and it’s the best featurette of the bunch. Shaye really does seem like one of the nicest people on earth, and it’s refreshing that the Insidious franchise made an older woman their lead character, as opposed to most other horror franchises which tend to gravitate towards much younger leads. 

The worst feature on this disc is something called “Franchise Recap: ‘Dive Into the Insidious Universe'”. Holy hell, is this bad. This video is intended to catch viewers up on the entire Insidious franchise, but it’s presented in this smug, condescending way that I suppose is meant to be funny, but is really just annoying. A high octane narrator starts off the video by screaming, “Remember the Insidious movies?! The post-millennial intelligent cocktail that gave a whole new meaning to waiting in limbo?!” It doesn’t get any better from there. Skip it. 

Special Features Include

  • Alternate Ending
  • 8 Deleted Scenes
  • Franchise Recap: “Dive Into the Insidious Universe”
  • Three Featurettes:
    • “Becoming Elise”
    • “Going Into the Further”
    • “Unlocking Keyface”

 

Like Me

What to make of this film? On one hand, Robert Mockler‘s Like Me is a stylish, hypnotic, commendably weird film. It’s bustling with energy, and loaded with jaw-dropping, neon-drenched cinematography. On the other hand, Like Me made me want to bang my head against a wall and rip my hair out. This is not an easy film to watch, and there’s a part of me that wants to write the entire damn thing off as an exercise in style over substance.

Still, there are hints of greatness here. The cinematography by James Siewert is truly remarkable – there are shots in Like Me that will take your breath away. The story focuses on a mentally unbalanced young woman (Addison Timlin) on a crime spree. Timlin’s character films one of her crimes and uploads it to YouTube, and, surprise surprise, it becomes a huge hit and turns her into an internet sensation. Soon, Timlin’s character sets out on a road trip, dragging along a character played by indie horror filmmaker and producer Larry Fessenden. Fessenden’s performance is wonderful, and might be worth the price of admission alone. Still, Like Me is often incredibly frustrating, and there are long stretches filled with loud, nerve-shattering moments that might try your patience. I’d recommend seeing it just to experience how strange it all is, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Special Features To Note

There’s not much here. Just a rough making-of documentary that tracks the progress of the low-budget production. You won’t find anything revelatory here – some of it is even shot on an iPhone in portrait mode. But if you’re interested in a up close and personal look at making a low budget film, this behind-the-scenes footage might be worth your time. Like the film itself, the moments that contain Fessenden end up being the most memorable. He’s a national treasure, folks.

Special Features Include

  • Making-of documentary
  • Photo gallery
  • Trailers

Sweet Virginia

I wanted to devote a little space to this movie, because it’ll get lost in the shuffle. There are no special features on the disc (boo to that), the film itself had almost no marketing presence, and I doubt it will make much of a blip on anyone’s radar. But Shout! Factory has released Sweet Virginia to Blu-ray, and it’s worth checking out. This is a slow-burn drama-thriller, cut from the same cloth as Blue Ruin (though not as good). Jamie M. Dagg directs this indie set in a small town in Alaska. Jon Bernthal is a former bull rider who now runs a motel. Christopher Abbott is a drifter who takes up residence at the motel, and develops something of a friendship with Bernthal’s character. But Abbott’s character has a dark, violent secret, and as the film opens, his character engages in an act of violence that sets all the film’s events in motion.

Sweet Virginia isn’t a flashy film. While Bernthal has built up a reputation through his solid work over the years, and might be somewhat well-known due to The Punisher, he’s not quite a big name, so the film doesn’t exactly have star power. Yet it’s a well-acted, gorgeously filmed drama, and Bernthal brings a quiet rage to his performance that’s often astonishing.

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