Insidious: The Last Key is the fourth entry in the popular horror franchise. Whereas many franchises suffer from sequelitis beyond the initial trilogy (and sometimes before), The Last Key stays fresh with a compelling lead character, taut plot, and new director.
The Last Key is actually a prequel, set directly before the events of the first film. Lin Shaye reprises her role as Dr. Elise Rainier, the medium from the previous films who can sense spirits and project herself into “the Further” — a purgatory-esque realm where tortured spirits dwell. Elise is a unique female hero; instead of firearms, she’s armed with steely resolve and bravery. It’s a character fans rarely get to see in any genre, much less horror (which has been dominated by the gun-toting likes of Kate Beckinsale and Milla Jovovich).
New Horrors Unlocked
Viewers learn where Elise gets her resolve in the film’s prologue, which is set decades in the past. Her powers manifest as a young girl, which frighten her family members. Her father Gerald (Josh Stewart) — a beleaguered guard who works at the nearby prison — tries to beat the visions out of her. He fails to, and the visions lead his daughter to the predictably dark basement, where she inadvertently releases a powerful demon trapped within.
Fast forward to the near-present. An older Elise — now working as a medium-for-hire — gets a call from a man who needs a demon exorcised from his house. The house in question is the same house Elise grew up in. Elise and her brave but bumbling sidekicks Specs (writer Leigh Whannell pulling double duty) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) travel to the house where they must confront the malevolent spirit, but also the demons from Elise’s abusive past.
A Taut and Tense Flick
Director Adam Robitel, who is new to the franchise, employs (but doesn’t overuse) traditional horror techniques like shadowy silhouettes, loud noises, and jump scares to up the tension. The key motif pervades the film, with an abundance of locks and prisons. The demon, whose fingers are frighteningly long keys, mutes his victims by sticking his digits into their throats and “locking” their voice boxes. But the scenes that are the toughest to watch are the ones with the physical child abuse, leading viewers to ask who the real monster is.
Is Insidious: The Last Key Good?
Whereas the horror elements (a grown adult facing childhood demons) isn’t anything new, their juxtaposition with the horrors of child abuse make for an interesting and intentionally disturbing plot. Shaye is a compelling character, and Sampson, in particular, provides comic relief that helps cut the tension.
If there’s any criticism, The Last Key’s plot perhaps tries to cover too much, with nothing feeling too consequential. The dusty rural midwest setting also feels a little predictable (most recently seen in Warner Bros. Annabelle as well).
It’s a must-watch for fans of the Insidious series though, giving a beloved character a backstory and setting up the first film in the series.
Insidious: The Last Key opens in the U.S. January 5, 2018.