The Insidious franchise is an interesting one. The first movie starred Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne as parents whose son slips into a coma, and they start to find a demon is haunting their home. While they are the primary stars, it was Lin Shaye, who appears in the movie as the psychic, that became the franchise’s leading lady. Insidious: The Last Key is her standout moment in the entire series.
What is most interesting about that is that her character – Elise Rainier – died in that first movie. Read Devan Gill’s Insidious Chapter 2 review here for the film where they brought her back. However, the franchise realized that it was Shaye who was most interesting and with the third movie, they made a prequel that showed Shaye helping people before the events of the first film.
The film’s production team refer to Elise as a superhero in this film’s world, and with that in mind, Insidious: The Last Key is the origin story of this superhero. The movie deals with the tortured past of Elise as a child and how that ties into her coming to grips with her past to become a hero as an adult. It is also a unique horror sequel – one that does not require hardly any knowledge of the previous three movies, although there are things learned in those movies that explain some of what happens here (time is different in the Further, as one example).
Insidious: The Last Key is the second prequel in this series. This one starts shortly after Chapter 3 ends and concludes at the exact moment that Elise receives the phone call that introduces her to the first movie’s story.
The movie starts with Elise as a child, living with her mother (Tessa Ferrer), father (Josh Stewart) and little brother Christian. As a small child, Elise can see ghosts and knows things no one should know. Her mother understands and works to protect Elise from her dad, who is scared of his daughter’s talents and tries to beat them out of her. One night, after her father punishes her and locks her in the cellar, something from the Further calls to the child and she unlocks a door, unleashing an evil demon into the house. This evil entity kills her mother and leaves Elise and her brother alone with her abusive father.
Finally, after Elise sees something in the laundry room as a teenager and her father prepares to punish her again, she runs away from home. That leads her to become a hero – someone who helps others who are in danger from evil beings.
The story picks up after the events of Chapter 3 when Elise receives a phone call from someone asking for help. What shakes her up the most is that this man lives in her childhood home. She returns and realizes that the presence she released as a child is still there and she sets out to send it back. While back home, she reunites with her brother (Bruce Davison), who hates her for leaving him alone as a child with a human monster, and his daughters Imogen (Caitlin Gerard) and Melissa (Spencer Locke).
As a movie, Insidious: The Last Key has a solid story. This film shows how Elise first entered the Further as a child and how her childhood scars made her into the woman she became. It also opens up the option for sequels focusing on a new character in Imogen, as Elise’s niece proves that the trait to enter the Further is prevalent in her as well (similar to Josh and his son in the first two movies). There are also hints that Elise’s mother shared this trait, although this film leaves that up to the viewers.
This movie isn’t perfect, by any means. The moments of comedy added by supporting characters Tucker and Specs are groan-inducing and sometimes creepy. Understand, these are added to relieve some of the tension, but they don’t fit well in this story. The jump scares are plentiful, and while some hate cheap jumps, watching this in a theater with a lot of people show that they work. These moments make people laugh uneasily after screaming and that proves, no matter how cheap they seem, they work.
The acting is fine, but most of the dialogue outside of Lin Shaye herself seems forced and a bit flat. But, for a horror movie, what matters are the scares. This film has great atmosphere and a lot of scares, and while the demon at the end does not measure up to the original demon from the first movie, it is still a tense moment. What is really interesting here is that this latest chapter in the franchise brings in some human monsters, although they tie into the demons from the Further. The reveal, when Elise figures out what happened in her childhood home, is fantastic.
However, it is Lin Shaye who is the superstar of this movie, delivering another great performance that carries the character of Elise to great heights. Don’t expect a masterpiece of horror and fear but expect a solid horror sequel that brings something new to the table. If you want a good scare and a fresh story, give Insidious: The Last Key a chance. Its better than some critics make it out to be.