Insidious: The Last Key is the fourth episode in the Insidious franchise. Knowing that what began in 2010 was then concluded with Chapter 2 in 2013, the casual viewer might be wondering, how come there’s a Chapter 4 and where does it fit in? Quick primer; Chapter 3, released in 2015, was a prequel. So Insidious: The Last Key, also called Chapter 4, is a sequel to the prequel. If you’re confused, fear not; in the end it all circles back to the beginning of the original 2010 release.
In this fourth outing, events revolve around the likable parapsychologist, Elise (Lin Shaye). Elise, you may recall, was killed off in the final moments of Insidious, then reappeared in flashbacks and other more ethereal forms in Chapter 2. The 2015 prequel, Chapter 3, went back to Elise’s early days and gave the supporting character an opportunity to take center stage. Plus, it also explained how she met up with the two doofus sidekicks, Specs (Leigh Whannell, who wrote most of the franchise) and Tucker (Angus Sampson, whose deadpan delivery gave most of the laughs). In The Last Key, there’s a lengthy introductory sequence that takes us back to Elise’s childhood, then jumps to 2010 where the remainder of the story takes place. By the end of the film, if you’ve seen everything to date, you’ll know everything you’ll need to know about Elise.
In The Last Key, a desperate, emergency call from a new potential client, Ted Garza (Kirk Acevedo) causes Elise and her two guys to pack their bags and head to New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, as the sign on the interstate reads. Garza’s home is haunted. He’s put every penny he has in the house, and now he needs help. Initially reluctant to take the case, Elise finally caves and decides to go, and for one simple reason: the house in which Garza lives is Elise’s childhood home, and whoever, or whatever, is haunting the place probably has a direct connection to the elderly parapsychologist. “I’m gonna find it,” Elise declares, “And I’m gonna finish it tonight!”
During the last ten years since slick, commercial horror franchises, such as Insidious and The Conjuring and stand-alone horrors like Lights Out, have taken off so well, there’s developed a rhythm to these films that are now routine. Often described as horror films for those who don’t normally care for the horror genre, you pretty much have a sense of what’s about to happen and when that ‘Boo’ moment is going to come. We’re conditioned to the mode.
That’s not to say that the story itself is predictable, but through repetition of style, you’re aware of when that moment of surprise is going to happen. If a character is slowly walking down a long passage, flashlight in hand, and there’s some atmospheric, scene-setting music in the background, you’re on safe ground. But when things go silent, and the character continues slowly searching down those long, spooky passages, it’s not a case of if you’re about to jump out of your seat, but when. The silence is the cue; it makes the sudden stab of screeching violins all the louder. And, of course, it’s a cheat. If someone stood behind you and out of nowhere blasted a trumpet in your ear, you’d jump. These ‘Boo’ moments are the same. They have nothing to do with being scared. Think back to the effectiveness of the decapitated, underwater head that plopped in front of Richard Dreyfuss in Jaws. No sound, at least, not at first, just the image. And it was a masterful, unexpected shocker without the screeches. In Insidious: The Last Key, you can set your watch by them.
In the film’s favor, there’s a moment around the sixty minute mark when things take an unexpected turn. Up until then, the creepy, whispery voices, the long, slow walks down the dark passages, the build of anticipation when you wonder who might be lurking around the corner, or what might be hiding behind the door, plus those screeching ‘Boo’ moments, all by now feel routine. Then a discovery is made, and all of a sudden there’s a fresh interest in the narrative you didn’t see coming. But it doesn’t last. During the climax, the illogical keeps occurring. And again, because of previous supernatural horrors of this ilk and what we’re now conditioned to expect without question, we’re no longer told how things are happening, we just have to accept them without explanation. Frankly, it all gets messy and confusing.
The reason Insidious turned into a franchise is because the first one in 2010 with Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson (both of whom are here glimpsed towards the end) worked. Depending on your personal scare-o-meter PG-13 tolerance level, most audiences found there were genuine chills to be enjoyed with the original. But everything that made that earlier plot worthwhile began and ended in 2010. With the completion of this fourth outing, it should finally be over. But if there’s more Insidious planned down the road, then by this point, someone’s really milking things.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 103 Minutes Overall Rating: 5 (out of 10)