It’s been about two years since the last “Insidious” entry and, while I mostly enjoyed “Insidious: Chapter 3”, it felt like the franchise was already starting to run its course. With “Insidious: The Last Key” we at least get some fresh blood in the form of “The Taking of Deborah Logan” director Adam Robitel. Will his contributions be enough to revitalize the franchise or is it time to send “Insidious” into the sunset?
In “Insidious: The Last Key” we learn that Elise (Lin Shaye) is still plagued by nightmares from growing up in her childhood home. While she had a loving mother, Elise’s father (Josh Stewart) is an abusive drunk who fears Elise’s gift and attempts to regularly beat it out of her. Not only that, a dark evil resided in the house that preyed on Elise’s fledgling abilities. It’s easy to see why she would never want to return there. However, when Ted Garza (Kirk Acevedo) takes up residence in the home, he calls upon Elise to help him deal with the dark presence. Seeing this as an opportunity to confront the demons of her past and reconnect with lost family, Elise journeys back home with her faithful sidekicks Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) in tow.
While “Chapter 3” split the character drama between Quinn and Elise, “The Last Key” primarily focuses on Elise and is much better for it. Lin Shaye has always done an amazing job throughout the “Insidious” films, so it’s about time she got a film that focuses on her own origins and psyche. And the parts of the film that focus on those aspects are mostly fine; however, the narrative as a whole feels disjointed. The story surrounding Ted Garza introduces one great moment in the film, but feels unnecessarily tacked on and a distraction from the greater story of Elise reconnecting with her brother and his daughters. And since Ted takes up so much time, the true heart of the story doesn’t reveal itself until halfway through the movie and that leads to another problem where the family drama feels half baked.
When we finally meet Elise’s brother and nieces the plot begins to move at breakneck speeds to set up the conflict, introduce character details, and resolve family issues that have been festering for decades. This leads to comically rushed plot points and revelations that don’t have the impact they would have if the movie spent time unpacking them rather than having characters blurt things out. Also, the tension of the movie suffers a bit because we don’t get time to know Elise’s nieces, so when they’re inevitably in trouble it doesn’t resonate on any sort of emotional level.
Lack of tension is problematic in another area. I love the trio of Elise, Tucker, and Specs but when you place these characters in a prequel then threats of violence against them aren’t effective at building tension at all because you know they’re gonna be perfectly fine cause you’ve seen them in the future. For example, there’s a scene where one of the three stick their arm in a big fan and it’s supposed to be tense cause the fan might turn on and cut off their arm or something. Well, if you’ve seen the first “Insidious” then you know nobody loses an arm. Granted, it’s a problem unique to people who have been following the series, but when you’re on the fourth film that’s going to be the majority of the audience.
I will say that the design of the KeyFace demon in “The Lost Key” is actually one of my favorites since the Lipstick-Face Demon of the original. However, the demon itself feels severely underutilized. There are hints to his goals in the movie, but it’s unclear as to what he’s actually doing or why he’s doing any of it. He just seems to be a demon for demons sake, which can be fine, but having a motivation or defining aspect would’ve gone a long way to strengthening the presence of the demon in the story.
The best thing I can say about “Insidious: The Last Key” is that it does an excellent job of tying up the series. As a prequel it does a perfect job of completing Elise’s character arc and bringing her to the right mental state she needs to be in in order to get to the first “Insidious” film. While not my favorite entry in the series, it puts a nice bow on things and brings everything to a natural conclusion. It’s also wonderful to get more of Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, and Angus Sampson working together. They have a warm and family-like quality to them that’s always a pleasure to see in horror movies. If you’ve been a long time fan of the series, it would be worth seeing this one just to see everything tied up. If not, this is a pretty poor jumping on point.