Insidious: The Last Key (2018)
Insidious: The Last Key is the fourth instalment of the franchise, but it’s actually the sequel to a prequel. If you wish to watch these movies in chronological order order then 3, 4, 1, 2 is the correct sequence. However, it is not essential to be au fait with the lore of the series to follow the plot of Insidious: The Last Key, although there are a few in-jokes for fans. The film begins with a prologue that gives us the backstory of Elise (Lin Shaye), our psychic who protagonist. Her childhood is far from happy as she lives next to the state prison where her abusive father is the executioner on death row. Young Elise and her brother encounter several paranormal incidents, the last leaving Elise possessed. Her mother Audrey rescues her but dies in the process. The film then moves on to 2010, where Elise gets a call from a scared man currently living in her old house. Despite reservations, she agrees to meet him and confront the supernatural forces behind the haunting. Her two assistants, Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (Leigh Whannell), accompany her and encounter a growing series of well executed but somewhat formulaic set-pieces.
Insidious: The Last Key is similar to The Purge: Election Year, in so far as both are examples of a movies in a franchise that don’t move things forward but simply take a step sideways and offer more of the same. With Insidious: The Last Key, we are provided with another extended trip to “the Further” and another demonic being that strives to interfere with human affairs. As ever with this series of films, there has been a lot of thought and effort put into the design of the central demon and Key Face is certainly an innovative design. However, if this franchise has a weakness, it is the fact that the supernatural forces are always given the minimum of explanation. That’s not to say that screenwriter, Leigh Whannell, should spoon feed the audience but it would be interesting to learn a little more about the motivations of the demons and why the manifest the way they do.
There is no major graphic violence and once again, the emphasis is on tension and disquiet. There are the usual jump scares that still seem to be in vogue and the sound design is used to great effect. Where both Lin Shaye and Bruce Davidson (playing her adult, estranged brother Christian) have adequate dialogue and something specific to do with their characters, the rest of the cast are not so lucky. Elise conveniently has two young nieces who are mainly present for “women in peril” duty. Tucker and Specs are again mainly comic foils. However, despite being overall just an adequate entry in the series, Insidious: The Last Key still has Lin Shaye as its trump card. There are not many Hollywood franchises that have at their heart a 74-year-old lady and her character remains endearing and robust. The film also makes a stab at some emotional depth during its climax, when Elise confronts the spirits of her past and the script takes a somewhat compassionate turn.
Overall, I found Insidious: The Last Key to be acceptable and the end of the movie nicely dovetails into the set up for the first Insidious back in 2011. Because of the goodwill that the previous three films have generated, I consider this instalment to be an adequate ending to the series, but I really don’t think that there’s any mileage left for a fifth. I don’t see where else you can go with the character of Elise as her fate is already a known quantity. However, since when have narrative issues and a clearly concluded storyline ever stopped a studio from making more movies in a successful franchise? I have a sneaking suspicion that a Tucker and Specs spin-off is also a possibility, which is far too close to Scooby-Doo territory for my liking. However, irrespective of such speculation, Insidious: The Last Key provides formulaic shocks and a clear conclusion. It will probably play better at home, due to lower expecatations.