Insidious: The Last Key is a solid finale to the Insidious franchise that gives series lead Lin Shaye the chance to take a graceful final bow.
Insidious: The Last Key is the fourth installment overall in the Insidious franchise, but chronologically takes place between the original Insidious (which was released theatrically in 2011) and 2015’s Insidious: Chapter 3. As the film’s subtitle implies, The Last Key nevertheless serves as a conclusion to the story that screenwriter Leigh Whannell and director James Wan first set in motion with their spooky tale of the Lambert family haunting seven years ago. While The Last Key doesn’t expand the supernatural horror franchise’s mythology all that substantially, it does make for a decent standalone narrative that fleshes out the backstory of the character that has evolved into these movies’ true protagonist: Elise Rainier. Insidious: The Last Key is a solid finale to the Insidious franchise that gives series lead Lin Shaye the chance to take a graceful final bow.
The Last Key picks up in the year 2010, with brilliant but troubled parapsychologist Dr. Elise Rainier (Shaye) and her sidekicks Specs (Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) now firmly established in their “ghost hunting” business following the events of Insidious: Chapter 3. One day, however, trouble comes knocking when Elise receives a call from one Ted Garza (Kirk Acevedo) asking for her help. Although Elise initially refuses, she thereafter agrees and reveals to Spec and Tucker why the call disturbed her so much in the first place – because Mr. Garza lives in the old house in the small town of Five Keys, New Mexico, where Elise grew up and lived with her family back in the 1950s.
Elise, Specs, and Tucker thus set out to New Mexico, in the hopes of both helping Mr. Garza and allowing Elise to finally confront her long-hidden personal demons (both figurative and literal). Once there, Elise is flooded with troubling memories of her childhood and is even reunited with her brother Christian (Bruce Davison) – who’s not so happy to see his long missing sister – as well as his daughters, Imogen (Caitlin Gerard) and Melissa (Spencer Locke). Unfortunately, it also turns out that the terrifying entity that tormented Elise when she was a child still resides in her former home… and it has terrible plans for her, along with the rest of her family.
Written by Whannell (who also penned the previous three Insidious movies), Insidious: The Last Key was helmed by Adam Robitel: director of the acclaimed found footage horror/thriller The Taking of Deborah Logan, as well as co-writer of the not so acclaimed found footage supernatural horror sequel Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension. Together, Whannell and Robitel craft a worthwhile backstory for Elise that doubles as a meaningful supernatural horror parable about the rippling effects of childhood trauma and post traumatic stress, building on ideas that were introduced in Insidious: Chapter 3 in particular. Chapter 3 and The Last Key compliment one another narratively and thematically in that sense, yet still abide by the rules about how The Further and the Insidious universe works from the first two chapters. At the same time, The Last Key is less innovative than the first two Insidious movies from a storytelling perspective and its efforts to fully bridge the gap between Chapter 3 and the original Insidious feel contrived. In that respect, The Last Key falls short of being a “necessary” chapter in the Insidious series.
In terms of direction, Robitel does a good job at sustaining a sense of spooky atmosphere throughout much of Insidious: The Last Key. Working with cinematographer Toby Oliver (Get Out, Happy Death Day) and production designer Melanie Jones (The Purge, Whiplash), Robitel turns Elise’s childhood home into an effectively creepy – and creaky – set piece covered in cobwebs and shadows that hide secrets both helpful and horrifying in nature. When it comes to executing the movie’s jump scares, Robitel and his collaborators use a number of the same filmmaking tricks that Wan employed in the original Insidious and even rehash some of that movie’s infamous bits of camera trickery, to diminished effect here. Most of the jump scares in The Last Key still manage to get the job done, but in many ways the scariest moments in the film are those that involve real world horrors and “monsters”, rather than demons from The Further.
Both the disturbing reveals about Elise’s past and the spooky developments in the present are all the more emotionally impactful thanks to the performance from Lin Shaye, who further establishes herself as a horror icon with her work here. While Insidious: The Last Key doesn’t reveal too many new layers to the Elise Rainier character, it does provide some meaningful context for her mindset and behavior in the other Insidious movies. Shaye, much like she did in Insidious: Chapter 3, rises to the occasion and skillfully handles the intense emotional challenges presented by the subject matter here, as well as the film’s more lighthearted moments. Thanks to Shaye’s performance (which is the sort that would generate awards buzz if it weren’t in a pop genre movie), The Last Key is elevated above being a run of the mill horror film sequel.
Specs and Tucker, like in the previous Insidious movies, are hit and miss when it comes to providing comedic relief in The Last Key, but do bring some heart to the proceedings here through their well-established dynamic with Elise. The other members of the Rainier family – including, Elise’s parents Gerald (Josh Stewart) and Audrey (Tessa Ferrer) in the movie’s flashbacks – are mostly two-dimensional and largely serve to move Elise along her character arc in the film, which (to be fair) they successfully do. Meanwhile, seasoned movie monster performer Javier Bartet (also known for playing creatures like Mama‘s namesake and Crooked Man in The Conjuring 2) delivers an effectively freaky performance as the villainous Keyface here, even though the ghoul itself lacks the idiosyncratic touches that made monsters like “The Man Who Can’t Breathe” and “Lipstick-Face Demon” memorable in the previous Insidious movies.
All things considered, Insidious: The Last Key successfully brings a sense of closure to the Insidious movie franchise and does manage to connect all four films in the horror series together. The film isn’t as ground-breaking as some of its predecessors and doesn’t expand the Insidious lore in major game-changing ways, but it does provide a thematic payoff to Elise’s journey from Insidious: Chapter 3. Those who hopped off the Insidious bandwagon after Chapter 2 don’t really need to climb back aboard now, for related reasons. As for those who have stuck with the franchise so far: our advice is to go ahead and take this final journey into The Further.
Insidious: The Last Key is now playing in U.S. theaters nationwide. It is 103 minutes long and is Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic content, violence and terror, and brief strong language.
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