Being the fourth film of the series, it is obvious that Insidious is running out of steam and probably won’t be able to go much “Further”.
Directed by: Adam Robitel/2018
For the uninitiated, Insidious Chapter 1 and 2 were horror films from James Wan, who brought you The Conjuring films, with both franchises starring Patrick Wilson. In the original Insidious, Lin Shaye is introduced to us in the part of Elise Rainier, a psychic who seeks to help people encountering ghosts and demons. Along with her sidekicks Specs (Leigh Whannell-who also wrote the 4 films and created the characters) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), Elise succeeded in fighting the demons, though at the cost of her own life. Elise is able to enter the spirit world to confront these specters, a place she calls “The Further”.
For the third installment, Insidious: Chapter 3, Elise was back, only in a prequel that predated the original Insidious’ storyline by a number of years. Insidious: The Last Key is a sequel to Insidious: Chapter 3, but is the 2nd film chronologically of the four, and a second prequel to Insidious: Chapter 1. In this film, Elise must confront a painful childhood event, and another powerful demon.
As a child, Elise lived in a house in Five Keys, New Mexico, on the grounds of the state penitentiary where many death sentences were carried out on the inmates sitting on death row. The year was 1953, and Elise could already see the many spirits that haunted their house. Her mother was aware of her gift of seeing into the spirit world, but her father wanted to hear nothing about ghosts and the like. When she honestly told her parents what she was seeing, he would severely beat her, locking her in the basement. Of course, she will encounter a strong demon that entices her to open the door to “The Further” that will allow the demon out. Tragedy strikes her family that night, and the film jumps to 2010 with Elise waking from that memory.
The rest of the film is based on her returning to the very house she grew up in to help a man named Ted Garza (Kirk Acevedo) who is the current resident, and who has begun encountering the same entities that haunted Elise as a child. To go back there, Elise is going to have to confront her own past, and her estranged brother Christian (Bruce Davison), whose own daughters might now be in danger from the spirits that tormented their household years ago.
The film features all of the usual trademarks of the series, namely fun jump-scares and tense moments interspersed with humor, mostly provided by Specs and Tucker. Being the fourth film of the series, it is obvious that Insidious is running out of steam and probably won’t be able to go much “Further”. Director Adam Robitel does a decent job of providing a slow build, injecting some tension into a format that has become very familiar. Unfortunately, much of this buildup is wasted in the end, as the film fails to stick the landing.
Several plot points are introduced that don’t really have a satisfactory explanation or resolution, namely the keys mentioned in the title, that are wielded by the demon force. And unless I just zoned out, I never really saw them tell us what the “last key” was, other than the fact that this film ends as it catches up the original installment, Insidious Chapter 1, making this the “Last Key” as in the “Last film of the series”?
Lin Shaye continues to be the main draw of this series, but even she looks a little bored by the end of it all. The shallow ending only picks up when we see some footage from the original Insidious with Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne’s Josh and Renai Lambert characters discussing what is happening with their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins). It made me wish that we had another story with the Lambert family, with James Wan directing. If anything, maybe Wan, Wilson, and Vera Farmiga will get The Conjuring 3 into production after Wan finishes up with Aquaman‘s solo film.
Insidious has had a good run, and I’m sure there might be a story or two that Leigh Whannell could milk out of these characters, as they are always fun to be around. Insidious: The Last Key, however, felt like it didn’t really know what it wanted to accomplish in its final showdown in “The Further”, and just sort of looped back to the original film as a way to keep the long-time fans of the series interested.
This was tried by another Blumhouse produced film series, Paranormal Activity, where the film in that series titled Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones tried to link it back to the original film through a few opening of doors (literally), much like this film. Both seemed like a gimmick, although a few points might be given for trying to create a cohesive storyline.
With no other competition in the horror genre right now, and having been a well-received and fun series for the most part, Insidious: The Last Key might be able to scare up enough box office to bring the cast back for a fifth go, but all signs point to this being Elise Rainier’s last stand….or key. Either way, it probably won’t go “Further”.