The latest and (hopefully) final instalment of the Insidious franchise catches back up with psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) as she is plagued by nightmares of her childhood at the hands of her abusive father, during the time when she was first discovering her ‘gift’.
Starting out with a set of very serious and violent scenes of domestic abuse in Elise’s 1953 home, the plot dares to take a more uncomfortable approach than we’ve seen in any of the other 3 films. Images of young Elise (played by Ava Kolker, delivering the single best performance in the film) being beaten with a cane by her father because he doesn’t believe in ghosts, and then carried screaming to the basement where she is locked up for the night are unforgettable and sadly, the scariest part of Insidious 4’s 1 hour 43 runtime, over within the first half an hour.
The rest of the film plays out in the present day, when Elise receives a phone call from a Mr Ted Garza who says there is something wrong in his house. Elise is shaken to discover the address is the same as her old home that she ran away from and hasn’t returned to in decades. Always keen to help others, which seems to be a strong running them in the franchise, Elise accepts the job.
With tragic sidekicks Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) in tow, they discover that a spirit is plaguing the house of Mr Garza and has centralised itself in one room- Elise’s old bedroom. A set of keys in the house from Elise’s fathers prison guard uniform is the literal key to unlocking the home of the demon, and some nasty shocking surprises along the way. This is where The Last Key succeeds, it finds a perfect balance between real-world horrors and horrors in The Further (the demonic other-world that Elise accesses when she speaks to spirits), which is a victorious effort within the Insidious franchise whose scares are usually rooted in the sound of screeching violins and jumps in the dark. We learn that people are monsters, and the violent abusive acts committed by people are much more terrifying than the half-dog-half-man creature ‘Key Face’ the films trailer boasts. Unfortunately, what seems like a new and interesting stomping ground for Insidious is tossed aside in favour of tasteless gags and forced, painful-to-watch humour from Specs and Tucker, that takes the film from a horror movie to be taken seriously, to a final nail in the coffin of a dying franchise.
Shaye’s performance however gives the film its redemption, having carried herself with grace and poise throughout this 4 part meander into worlds unknown and plot-points never explained, she manages to weigh the film down throughout, with emotive ties back to her family life and an incessant need to help others. One of these ties being her estranged brother Christian (played in his older years by Bruce Davison), whom she meets alongside her nieces Imogen and Mellisa in an old diner in the town. What could have been a nice family reunion actually turns into a shoe-in for further instalments as we discover that Imogen is psychic too.
As is standard in the Insidious films, we then get our final showdown in The Further. Just as we seen in Chapter 3, the film becomes shrouded in so much darkness it’s impossible to make anything out, to the detriment of some great creature work from Javier Botet as Key Face, the smokey floors and slightly blue tinged lighting have lost their touch by this fourth film and it seems there is not much further to take this nightmarescape.
That is not to say that Chapter 4 lacks any tension at all, far from it, a scene where Elise is in a tunnel is a drawn out masterclass in claustrophobia and nerves and will have even the most seasoned horror fans crying out for the scene to reach its climax so they can breathe again. Director Adam Robitel also manages to exude control with the films jump scares, with only a handful of them actually playing out, and the rest leaving you on the edge of your seat waiting for something to happen. It’s a shame that Whannell’s script didn’t exercise such restrain, with so many new and often unexplained ideas thrown together, it’s difficult for anyone closely following the plot, or the franchise as a whole, to really piece this together in the Insidious universe.
Insidious: The Last Key boldly claims ‘Fear comes home’ on its poster, but with so many plot points that never really come to a conclusion, it’s like fear came home, couldn’t unlock the door so decided to book in a Travelodge for the night with a copy of Cosmopolitan and a Starbucks.
by Chloe Leeson
Chloe Leeson is the founder of Screenqueens. She is 22 and from the north of England (the proper north). She believes Harmony Korine is the future and is pretty sure she coined the term ‘selfie central’. She doesn’t like Pina Coladas or getting caught in the rain but she does like Ezra Miller a whole lot. Her favourite films are Into The Wild, The Beach and Lords of Dogtown. She rants about cinema screenings @kawaiigoff.