Movie Review: Annihilation


Biologist Lena (Natalie Portman) discovers something really bizarre in Alex Garland’s Annihilation. (Source: The Atlantic)

Alex Garland has changed the way of how we see horror and science-fiction. He first received attention from writing the screenplays for the zombie movies 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later. His directorial debut, Ex Machina, became one of the best sci-fi movies of the century. Not only does it generate brilliant ideas and makes you think, it also makes you send shivers down your spine and goes in ways you can never imagine. Annihilation, his sophomore feat (in which he also wrote the screenplay), marks his return to the wonderful world of the two genres.

Based on the book by Jeff VanderMeer, Lena (Natalie Portman) is a biology professor with military background. She’s dealing with the loss of her husband Kane (Oscar Isaac, the second collaboration with Garland) for about a year. One day, she ends up at a government facility and meets psychologist Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh). She assigns Lena to embark on a mission into “The Shimmer”, an environmental disaster zone where an alien presence is presumed to be located. Along with physicist Josie (Tessa Thompson, Thor: Ragnarok), geologist Cass (Tuva Novotny), and paramedic Anya (Gina Rodriguez), Lena discovers the mysterious area of flashing colors and mystical creatures. Once they enter The Shimmer, they will never be the same.

It’s better going in Annihilation without knowing too much of the narrative. I certainly had no idea what I was in for until the movie started. After the movie, I had a similar reaction to Arrival, another sci-fi movie. It blew me away yet I knew I had to see it again.

Portman, leading a gifted cast, delivers the best performance of her career as Lena, who traces her husband’s team’s tracks into the unknown. It doesn’t take long for her and the team to go the downward spiral into madness. This is something terrifying yet truly dazzling. It’s the old-fashioned science-fiction containing unique ideas overshadowing overblown action. The final act (containing minimal dialogue) is something to behold like the rest of the movie. One of the best films so far this year!



Movie Review: Black Panther


Long live, King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman)! (Source: IMDb)

T’Challa–otherwise known as the Black Panther–made his MCU debut in Captain America: Civil War. He is such a cool superhero! Dressing up in his black suit and panther mask, he grants super speed, strength, stamina. It was great to see him kick ass at the airport with Iron Man, Captain America, among others. Two years later, we finally get to see Black Panther’s solo feature. I can’t picture a better time to see it!

Black Panther is the first big-budget extravaganza from director Ryan Coogler. From the overlooked indie film Fruitvale Station to Creed, the miraculous entry in the Rocky franchise, he is becoming one of the greatest filmmakers of this generation.

After the events of Civil War, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns to his African homeland of the technologically advanced Wakanda. He takes the throne as the new king who wants to keep his people safe. However, Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan, Coogler’s frequent collaborator) and his ally Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), a South African arms dealer, seek to overthrow him. While putting his country’s fate over the edge, he suits up and joins forces with Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Okoye (Danai Gurira, The Walking Dead), Shuri (a scene-stealing Letitia Wright), and CIA agent Everett Ross (Martin Freeman). Together, they must prevent the two from annihilation.

If I ramble on about this movie, I’ll spoil it for everyone. With a screenplay written by Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, this contains the humor and thrills as expected in an MCU film, as well as morals, politics, and visual wonder (great cinematography by Mudbound‘s Rachel Morrison!). Boseman is the perfect choice to play Black Panther, and he leads a marvelous cast featuring Jordan (as MCU’s best villain), Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya, and the legendary Forest Whitaker. Black Panther is officially my favorite film in the MCU, surpassing Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok. This is destined to be a classic!


Movie Review: The 15:17 to Paris


Spencer Stone (as himself) notices something is seriously wrong on the train in Clint Eastwood’s The 15:17 to Paris. (Source: The Houston Chronicle)

Clint Eastwood is no stranger when it comes to hiring non-actors in his movies. For instance, the Hmong community in Gran Torino give such natural performances as different characters. In his latest film, The 15:17 to Paris, he casts three friends who were involved in an act of courage during a terrorist attack on a train to Paris. Two of them served in the U.S. military. One thing in common? They play themselves.

Not only is it their first movie together, I’m positive this will be their last. It’s a shame considering how a legend like Eastwood went from The Outlaw Josey Wales to the Oscar-winning Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby to Gran Torino to American Sniper to Sully. He has never made a bad movie until The 15:17 to Paris.

Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, and Spencer Stone have been best friends since middle school. They would spend more time in the principal’s (Thomas Lennon) office than in the classroom. The mothers of Alek and Spencer (Jenna Fischer and Judy Greer) stick up for their sons whenever they meet up with their teachers and the principal. Years later, while Alek and Spencer join the military, they decide to bring Anthony for a summer vacation in Europe. They have a great time until the unthinkable happens on August 21, 2015 when they board a train from Amsterdam to Paris.

There is so much potential to be had with The 15:17 to Paris. This powerful story featuring three American heroes playing themselves offers so little. The three men are truly terrible actors and the supporting cast try way too hard (what the hell are you doing here, Jaleel White?). Instead, they are trapped in a plot (written by Dorothy Blyskal) wrapped with inept, wooden dialogue and shallow pacing. Leading up to the terrorist attack (the saving grace of this terrible movie), the movie features Skype chats, selfies, and discipline. There is nothing much happening. Once the movie finally picks it up within the last twenty minutes, it showcases the intensity and sheer realism of the event. Other than that, this is a wasted opportunity.


Movie Review: 12 Strong


Capt. Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) and his team of Special Forces join the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan to take down the Taliban in 12 Strong. (Source: Joblo)

Jerry Bruckheimer productions have been a mixed bag over the years. From the good–The Rock, National Treasure, the first Pirates of the Caribbean, Remember the Titans–to the bad–Kangaroo Jack, The Lone Ranger, Pearl Harbor. With 12 Strong, the latest movie about The Horse Soldiers, it seemed nothing entirely special. Surprisingly, even for a January release, this is a solid tribute to the first responders of the 9/11 attacks.

On  September 11, 2001, everybody was watching the news when the two planes flew into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Capt. Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) is getting her daughter ready for school until it happened. He becomes the leader of the first U.S. special forces team to head into Afghanistan. Along with Cal Spencer (Michael Shannon), Sam Diller (Michael Peña), Ben Milo (Trevante Rhodes, Moonlight), Max Bowers (Rob Riggle) among others, Nelson joins forces with Gnl. Abdul Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban) of the Northern Alliance to take down the Taliban and members of al-Qaeda.

Having to play these real-life soldiers sounds like a dream come true to this gifted cast. Particularly Riggle who plays Col. Max Bowers. An interesting fact: Before becoming a comedic actor, we used to be a Marine who actually served under Bowers.

“He was a very proficient leader,” he said. “He knew his stuff, and he cared about his troops, and I thought he was a real professional. So that’s all you can ask for.”

With New Mexico serving as the backdrop of Afghanistan, 12 Strong has strong production values (nothing is more awesome than seeing the soldiers fight into battle on horseback) and steady action set pieces, thanks to Nicolai Fuglsig’s direction and Rasmus Videbæk’s cinematography. Despite the limited character development, Chris Hemsworth and the team do make up for its flaws. It hardly brings anything new to the table and it might be twenty minutes too long. The results are somewhat underwhelming. Also, William Fichtner as Col. Mullholland looks so bizarre with a shaved head that it’s almost impossible not to crack up. Nevertheless, I’m glad I went to see this movie.


My Predictions for the 90th Academy Awards


(Source: Oscar)

The Oscar nominations have been announced this morning. I’m grateful these movies got the nominations they deserve. The Shape of Water received the most nominations (13) including Best Picture. However, I was expecting a bit more. For Call Me by Your Name, I was expecting a nod for Best Cinematography and Armie Hammer getting nominated for his supporting role. Or–Best Actor nods for Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick) or Jake Gyllenhaal (Stronger). But–that didn’t happen.

Anyway–I’m going to share my predictions on who should win and will win in the 90th Oscars ceremony on March 4th. Here they are:

Best Picture:

Call Me by Your Name

Darkest Hour


Get Out

Lady Bird

Phantom Thread

The Post

The Shape of Water

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Actor:

Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name

Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread

Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out

Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Best Actress:

Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water

Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Margot Robbie, I, Tonya

Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird

Meryl Streep, The Post

Best Supporting Actor:

Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project

Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water

Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World

Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Supporting Actress:

Mary J. Blige, Mudbound

Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread

Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

Best Director:

Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk

Jordan Peele, Get Out

Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird

Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread

Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

Best Animated Feature:

The Boss Baby

The Breadwinner



Loving Vincent

Best Animated Short:

Dear Basketball

Garden Party


Negative Space

Revolting Rhymes

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Call Me by Your Name, James Ivory

The Disaster Artist, Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber

Logan, Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green

Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin

Mudbound, Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

Best Original Screenplay:

The Big Sick, Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani

Get Out, Jordan Peele

Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig

The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Martin McDonagh

Best Cinematography:

Blade Runner 2049, Roger Deakins

Darkest Hour, Bruno Delbonnel

Dunkirk, Hoyte van Hoytema

Mudbound, Rachel Morrison

The Shape of Water, Dan Laustsen

Best Documentary Feature:

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

Faces Places


Last Men in Aleppo

Strong Island

Best Documentary Short Subject:


Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405


Knife Skills

Traffic Stop

Best Live Action Short Film:

DeKalb Elementary

The Eleven O’Clock

My Nephew Emmett

The Silent Child

Watu Wote/All of Us

Best Foreign Language Film:

A Fantastic Woman (Chile)

The Insult (Lebanon)

Loveless (Russia)

On Body and Soul (Hungary)

The Square (Sweden)

Best Film Editing:

Baby Driver


I, Tonya

The Shape of Water

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Sound Editing:

Baby Driver

Blade Runner 2049


The Shape of Water

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Best Sound Mixing:

Baby Driver

Blade Runner 2049


The Shape of Water

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Best Production Design:

Beauty and the Beast

Blade Runner 2049

Darkest Hour


The Shape of Water

Best Original Score:

Dunkirk, Hans Zimmer

Phantom Thread, Jonny Greenwood

The Shape of Water, Alexandre Desplat

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, John Williams

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Carter Burwell

Best Original Song:

“Mighty River” from Mudbound, Mary J. Blige

“Mystery of Love” from Call Me by Your Name, Sufjan Stevens

“Remember Me” from Coco, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez

“Stand Up for Something” from Marshall, Diane Warren, Common

“This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul

Best Makeup and Hair:

Darkest Hour

Victoria and Abdul


Best Costume Design:

Beauty and the Beast

Darkest Hour

Phantom Thread

The Shape of Water

Victoria and Abdul

Best Visual Effects:

Blade Runner 2049

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Kong: Skull Island

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

War for the Planet of the Apes 

Top 15 Best Movies of 2017

Finally! Onto the good stuff!

As I mentioned before, I decided to hold off on my list of the best movies of the year for a bit to catch up on some movies that I have yet to see. I can’t recall a more memorable year for film than 2017! From the breathtaking to the original to the haunting to the downright powerful, these are only several words on how I can describe these fifteen great movies on my list. Let’s get started!

Honorable Mentions: Coco, Darkest Hour, The Florida Project, Get Out, A Ghost Story, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2, I Am Heath Ledger, John Wick: Chapter Two, Logan, Logan Lucky, The Lost City of Z, Maudie, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), Only the Brave, The Post, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Stronger, Wind River, Wonder Woman


(Source: Vulture)

15. It – Starting off the list is the long-waited second adaptation of Stephen King’s 1,000+ page epic. Andy Muschietti’s first of two movies follows seven kids teaming up to take down Pennywise the Clown (a wicked terrifying Bill Skarsgard). This movie brought together some of the most talented child actors working today, including St. Vincent’s Jaeden Lieberher and Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard (laugh-out-loud hilarious as the trashmouth Richie). While a lot of people may not think this version of It is not entirely scary, I found it to be a little more than just scary. This is a funny, intense, graphic, and downright devastating coming-of-age story about the loss of innocence. I have a bad feeling the sequel is going to suck, but I’m glad I went to see this one!


(Source: Billboard)

14. Baby DriverFresh from finishing his Cornetto trilogy with 2013’s The World’s End, Edgar Wright’s next feature is more personal. Not only did he direct Baby Driver, he–and only he–also wrote the screenplay. This throws every Fast and Furious movie out of the water! With Ansel Elgort leading a talented cast, this is fast-paced, slick, and darkly-funny action film featuring some of the best action and the best soundtrack of the year. It also contains perhaps the coolest warehouse shootout I’ve ever seen!


(Source: Esquire)

13. Thor: Ragnarok After the disappointment of Thor: The Dark World, the MCU has improved quite a bit. I wish Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) would direct every film in the MCU. His direction and sense of humor has put into great use here. It’s a great opportunity for him to film in his New Zealand homeland, like Peter Jackson did with his Lord of the Rings franchise. While it may have emotional moments here and there, Thor: Ragnarok is a blast from start to finish. No one can play Thor better than Chris Hemsworth. Thumbs up for its amazing use of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”!



12. DetroitIt’s a shame this movie didn’t get the attention it deserved. Kathryn Bigelow’s portrayal of the 1967 Detroit riots is as heavy-handed as it is powerful. It focuses on the incident at the Algiers Motel where three black men were killed and nine others injured. With Mark Boal’s brilliant screenplay, fantastic performances by Anthony Mackie, a suave John Boyega, and a sinister Will Poulter, and effective use of the handheld camerawork, Detroit keeps you on the edge of your seat.


(Source: The Playlist)

11. The Big SickIf you’re sick and tired of those cliched rom-coms (like myself), The Big Sick will help you forget about them. This movie is based on a true story about Pakistani-American comedian Kumail Nanjiani living in Chicago, who falls for a woman who goes into a coma. It’s funny as it is heart-wrenching. The 9/11 scene is nothing short of marvelous writing! Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan make a cute couple. Ray Romano and Holly Hunter are also great as the girl’s parents. I would be bummed if Nanjiani doesn’t earn an Oscar nomination as a fictional version of himself who wants to marry for love, not because of his culture. Easily one of the best comedies I’ve ever seen.


(Source: IndieWire)

10. Mudbound – After a few mishaps, this is the first Netflix original movie I actually loved! The movie follows two families–one black, one white–as they face tensions in the South during World War II. This is a gritty yet moving picture with Carey Mulligan leading an excellent ensemble and tackles the topics of racism and PTSD. Definitely a Netflix movie I’ll watch for the rest of my life.


(Source: The Atlantic)

9. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Who knew a British filmmaker like Martin McDonagh would direct a future all-American classic? Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has the perfect blend of dark comedy and devastating drama. I hope Frances McDormand wins the Oscar for her performance as a mother fighting for justice and vengeance. Woody Harrelson and the underrated Sam Rockwell give some of the best performance of their careers as the two authorities who get in her way. Great stuff!


(Source: Vice)

8. KediThis is the best (and only) documentary I’ve seen from last year. It follows the lives of seven out of thousands of stray cats roaming the streets of Istanbul, Turkey’s capital city. I love how positive the residents are about these wonderful creatures. Ranging from a bakery worker using his tips for vet visits to a middle-aged man explaining how cats helped him recover from a nervous breakdown. Istanbul native Ceyda Torun creates a gorgeous ode to her “cat metropolis” and reminding how they are one-of-a-kind animals. In the beginning of the movie, one of the residents says, “Without cats, Istanbul would lose part of its soul.” Cat lovers and animals will certainly love this documentary!


(Source: IndieWire)

7. Blade Runner 204935 years after the original Blade Runner, Ridley Scott returns to his sci-fi world as a producer. Denis Villeneuve takes his place as director to expand the gritty future. Ryan Gosling is no stranger for playing dark, violent characters with subtle emotions. Along with a massive cast, he does a wonderful job as Officer K, the new cop in the LAPD assigning to take down old replicants. Combining Roger Deakins’ impressive cinematography and thought-provoking ideas, Blade Runner 2049 is slightly better than the original. I’m glad Harrison Ford returned as Officer Deckard.


(Source: IMDb)

6. Phantom ThreadLegendary actor Daniel Day-Lewis teams up with Paul Thomas Anderson for the first time since There Will Be Blood. Phantom Thread is perhaps Day-Lewis’ last film before his retirement. I hope he decides to return to acting one day. From My Left Foot to Last of the Mohicans to Lincoln, he has had an impressive filmography. In this movie, he delivers one of the best performances of his career as Reynolds Woodcock, London’s most successful fashion designer during the 1950s (some of the dresses he makes takes your breath away!). One day, he falls in love with a woman named Alma (the lovely Vicky Krieps). Things get real intense. Through PTA’s marvelous direction, writing, and cinematography and Jonny Greenwood’s breathtaking score, there is so much beauty and suspense that Alfred Hitchcock would be proud of! Surprisingly enough, Phantom Thread is also pretty damn funny!


(Source: Hollywood Reporter)

5. War for the Planet of the ApesWhen Matt Reeves took over to direct Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, it exceeded everybody’s expectations. While Rise was a great set-up, Dawn took the beloved sci-fi franchise to new heights! With War, he finished one of the best trilogies of all-time! Through the motion capture, Andy Serkis’ Caesar makes a kick-ass hero! Newcomers including Woody Harrelson’s Colonel (paying tribute to Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now) and Steve Zahn’s Bad Ape provide enough humanity this gritty, action-packed, emotional conclusion. I’m hoping for more Planet of the Apes movies in the future.


(Source: Washington Post)

4. DunkirkAfter the sap-fest known as Interstellar, Christopher Nolan goes back to an important time in history. The Dunkirk evacuation (a.k.a. Operation Dynamo) of 1940; where 300,000 troops from Britain, Canada, Belgium, and France were rescued off the coast of Northern France surrounded by the Germans. Dunkirk might not be an easy movie to follow. It follows three different storylines in non-linear fashion–one on the beach; taken place over the course of one week, the other out to sea; taken place over the course of one day, the last in the air; taken over the course of one hour. Trust me, I had to see it twice in theaters in order to place the pieces of the film’s timeline together.

Nevertheless, this movie pinned me to my seat with its high tension, historical accuracy and authenticity, refreshing use of practical effects (rare in summer blockbusters nowadays), Hans Zimmer’s eerie score, and powerful performances by Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh, and Harry Styles (who never breaks into song and dance). Peter Travers went as far to call Dunkirk “the greatest war movie ever made”. It sure is one hell of an experience!


(Source: The Atlantic)

3. Lady Bird – This is perhaps the best directorial debut in recent memory. Known for collaborating with director Noah Baumbach in Frances Ha and Mistress America, the delightfully quirky Greta Gerwig makes a film based on her early life in Sacramento. Saoirse Ronan gives yet another miraculous performance as Lady Bird, a senior at an all-girl Catholic high school. And we follow her throughout her school year set a year after 9/11, joining in the school plays, having two boyfriends, and attempting to get accepted at a college in New York. Most importantly,  she wants to be loved by her hard-working mother (a spectacular Laurie Metcalf). The mother-daughter dynamic is one of the reasons why this coming-of-age story as hilarious as it is poignant. Gerwig has literally hit home with Lady Bird. Finger crossed that she directs more great movies in the near future.


(Source: Vox)

2. The Shape of Water – It’s hard not to appreciate the vision of Guillermo del Toro’s films. From Hellboy, Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak to his masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth. His new film, The Shape of Water, is a fairy tale, love story, Cold War thriller, and a tribute to cinema all wrapped into one. Sally Hawkins is a revelation as Eliza, the mute janitor who develops an attraction with Doug Jones’ Amphibian Man (a nod to the Creature from the Black Lagoon). This bizarre fantasy has enough of everything to carry through–humor, violence, beauty, and suspense. With an Oscar-worthy score by the great Alexandre Desplat and a gifted supporting cast including Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, and a deliciously evil Michael Shannon, The Shape of Water is most certainly likely this will take home the big prize at this year’s Oscars. However, this is not my favorite movie from 2017.


(Source: Variety)

1. Call Me by Your Name – I have been waiting for Call Me by Your Name ever since it premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. While I didn’t have the time to read André Aciman’s novel before seeing the movie, I became anxious to see what the praise was about. From its first image, I have never seen a more beautiful romance in my entire life! Through Luca Guadagnino’s spectacular direction and James Ivory’s astounding screenplay, this is less of a gay love story than a coming-of-age story. Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer are downright magical as Elio and Oliver, the two lovebirds who decide to spend the long summer together in northern Italy. While this movie can be compared to last year’s Oscar winner Moonlight, these movies are different in their own right.

As a 17-year-old, Elio–the main character–is living a happy life with his parents (Michael Stuhlbarg and Amira Casar) in his Italian country house. He loves his books and music. However, he’s struggling to come to terms with his identity. Everything changes when the handsome Oliver visits his family for the summer as an intern. Throughout the first hour, they begin teasing and flirting with each other until they develop a friendship unlike any other. This is a summer they will never forget. Kudos to marvelous chemistry between the two, it’s hard not to smile whenever these two are together. It’s impossible not to get teary-eyed during father’s monologue near the end of the movie. Call Me by Your Name is one of these movies I’ll watch for the rest of my life!

Guadagnino said he might direct sequels to this movie; like Richard Linklater did with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight. I don’t see why it won’t happen. I would love to see how Elio and Oliver evolve as they get older!

It’s hard to believe this decade is almost over! Only two more years to go until I compile a list of the top 100 best and worst movies of the decade…I guess it’s about that time to get started on that.

Anyway–I hope you enjoyed reading about my picks of the best and worst movies from this past year as I did writing about them. Please feel free to leave a comment about what your favorite movies of the year are. Here’s to another great year for film in 2018!

Movie Review: Insidious: The Last Key


Parapsychologist Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) returns to The Further once again in Insidious: The Last Key. (Source: IMDb)

Starting the New Year with–what else?–a horror movie.

James Wan and Leigh Whannell have crafted one of the most successful horror movie franchises in recent memory. With a $1.5 million budget, Insidious provided the much needed atmospheric thrills without becoming too gimmicky. It contained some of the most horrifying images in any PG-13 rated horror movie. The two sequels followed the same premise of an entity taking over someone’s soul and calling upon a parapsychologist to save them. While Insidious: Chapter Two ended up being too silly for its own good, Insidious: Chapter Three had enough decent scares to carry through. With the previous film ending a cliffhanger, the beloved Elise Rainier returns to face her worst nightmare in Insidious: The Last Key.

Elise (Lin Shaye) has investigated paranormal activity for years. One day, she receives a phone call from a man named Ted (Kirk Acevedo), whose house is claimed to be haunted. This leads Elise and her ghost hunters–Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (Leigh Whannell)–to Five Keys, New Mexico, where she grew up as a child. As she looks back at her childhood, she must go back into the Further to save her niece Melissa (Spencer Locke, Monster House) from the evil entity once and for all.

Is it really necessary to make another Insidious film? Of course not! But–this is slightly better than Insidious: Chapter Two. It has its moments; ranging from providing some decent scares and strong set pieces. Shaye is as great as ever as Elise. Her rough childhood is what makes this movie. It opens up in 1953 with Elise as a little girl living through the Cold War with her young brother Christian (Pierce Pope; Bruce Davison, as the adult Christian), loving mother (Tessa Ferrer), and abusive father (Josh Stewart). Whenever she is communicating with the spirits, this really pisses her father off. Then–she unleashes the evil spirit before leaving her home for good.

After the strong prologue, The Last Key descents into a state of dullness. Featuring little to no surprises and forced attempts at humor, this is far from the worst horror movie I’ve ever seen. It’s most certainly one I will never revisit anytime soon.