For a franchise built around a character who died in part one, Insidious has continued finding stories for paranormal medium Elise (Lin Shaye). Insidious: The Last Key may be the strongest Elise story since the original, as it has the luxury of focusing on Elise rather than bending over backwards to explain how she’s still in the movie.
The Last Key is another prequel, as Chapter Three was, so Elise is alive again. The Last Key goes further (see what I did there?) back into Elise’s childhood. As a girl she lived in a house by death row, so that gave her plenty of spirits to talk to.
When Ted Garza (Kirk Acevedo) calls Elise from her childhood home, she returns to face the demons she fled as a child. Thus, she also faces the family she abandoned.
The best part of Insidious: The Last Key is when Elise confronts her now adult brother Christian (Bruce Davison). These are grownups with legit history to work out. That’s bigger than ghosts.
There’s also a bit of that regarding Elise’s introspective side. Staying in her old haunted bedroom is as much about a woman discovering artifacts of her life, for better or worse, as it is finding the scary ghost.
Of course, it eventually does have to be about the scary ghosts. You sort of know the trick by now. It’s quiet, quiet, quiet, quiet, then REALLY LOUD. Or its dark, dark, dark, dark, WHAT’S THAT???
New to the Insidious franchise, director Adam Robitel knows the format. The lighting is really strong, as evidenced when shadow figures can move distinctly in an already dark frame. The Further in his film is much bigger than the black box theater it was in Insidious: Chapter Two.
The most unfortunate aspect of The Last Key is that Elise’s assistants, Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) have become total creepers on Christian’s daughters (Caitlin Gerard and Spencer Locke). This isn’t just being awkward with women. This is uncomfortable, and Whannell wrote the lines for both himself and Sampson!
From the moment they’re introduced, Specs and Tucker start asking the women about dating. One, these are your boss’s nieces, AND they’re clients! They not only won’t give it a rest, they keep touching them. Hey you, get your damn hands off her!
They could have dropped these gratuitous Specs and Tucker scenes to give us another scene or two between Elise and Christian. Of course, Insidious 4 wasn’t ever going to be Ordinary People, but it’s a significant background to the proceedings.
As a prequel, there are still Easter eggs connecting The Last Key to the Insidious franchise. They’re fun and not distracting from the main story.
If horror has taught us anything, it’s that there’s never a final chapter or a last one. Whether they take Insidious forward or further (I did it again) back, the focus should remain on Elise’s character.
Insidious: The Last Key is in theaters Friday.