I wasn’t a huge fan of the first Insidious film, and I didn’t even see it until it hit home video and not until the second film was about to come out. It fell into the clichéd rhythm of using REALLY LOUD MUSIC to make you jump instead of just letting the truly unsettling visuals do all the work. But between the first and second chapters director James Wan made the supremely creepy The Conjuring, a horror film that didn’t rely on music and sounds effects to send chills up your spine and he applied that same technique to Insidious: Chapter 2 which made it an even better movie than its predecessor.
But the storytellers backed themselves into a corner of sorts by killing off the lead character at the end of Chapter 2 but they had the characters of Specs (Leigh Whannell, who’s also written the screenplays) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) who could have carried on with Elise (Lin Shaye) as their spiritual guide. Instead, Chapter 3 became a prequel with a very much alive Elise and now The Last Key fits snugly in between Chapter 3 and the original (so if you’re counting, you can now watch the movies in chronological order with 3, 4, 1 and 2).
Insidious: The Last Key puts Elise front and center, starting with a flashback (that’s actually a nightmare) to her childhood in New Mexico where her mother nurtured her special gift but her prison officer dad had no time for ghosts, savagely beating Elise when she refuse to not tell him what he wants to hear and then locks her in the basement where she hears a voice that tells her she has the power to unlock all the doors and let in the light. Unfortunately, whatever this entity is also kills Elise’s mother which only makes her father more psychotic. As a teen, Elise experiences another haunting, freaking out her little brother, and angering her father once more. But this time she runs before he can beat her, never turning back. Until …
A call comes from a man about a haunting in a house in New Mexico. Elise’s old house, forcing her to gather her wits about her to help the man exorcise not his demons but the demons that plagued her as a child. But the story takes an interesting turn that’s better left unspoiled, leaving Elise, Specs and Turner to deal with more than just some angry spirits.
Insidious: The Last Key may not be as good as producer James Wan’s The Conjuring films, but this one still packs quite a few scares into its running time. Thankfully there is really only one cheap, loud music jump scare while others come when you least expect them. A scene with Elise in a tunnel opening long hidden suitcases is one of the most tension-filled scenes in recent memory. While the film delivers the scares, it also gives Shaye her best opportunity to really bring Elise to life, showing us how she’s lived with this burden of her childhood and how she’s used her gift to help others. Shaye also conveys the same shock that we experience when she finds out not everything she experienced was what it seemed, and that is a nice touch in Whannell’s script to help subvert our expectations for what could have become just another cookie cutter entry in the series. It certainly gives the film more weight than the run of the mill haunted house movie.
If this is indeed the final Insidious film, the series does end on a high note. But, of course, there’s still always a chance that the stories could continue with Specs and Tucker, the ghostly Elise and someone else introduced in this film. Either way, this is a pretty solid entry in the series that will definitely have you jumping out of your seat and leaving the lights on while you sleep for a night or two.
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Insidious: The Last Key has a run time of 1 hour 43 minutes and is rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic content, violence and terror, and brief strong language.