Insidious: The Last Key

by Greg Vellante

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday January 5, 2018

'Insidious: The Last Key'
'Insidious: The Last Key'  

A reliably unfaltering and spooky franchise, the "Insidious" films are crafty little horror-thrillers with the gritty abandon of a 1970s B-grade exploitation pic with just enough studio appeal to penetrate the mainstream. The films are brought to us by Blumhouse Productions, helmed by Jason Blum, a man to whom a colleague has often referred as the present age's Roger Corman - an opinion I'd be inclined to agree with. From last year's playful and pulpy "Happy Death Day" to low-budget slasher films like 2015's "Unfriended" (which took place entirely on a computer screen), Blumhouse is bringing original, unexpected horror gems into the spotlight, and this most certainly includes "Insidious: The Last Key."

The fourth film in this series picks up where "Chapter 3," a prequel to the first two films, left off ('Last Key' is technically the second chapter in the film's established timeline. But the four films create such a coherent loop in their multi-film storytelling that these entries can be watched in a variety of orders). Lin Shaye, who quickly became the unsung hero of the "Insidious" universe after stealing scenes in the first film and giving a fierce performance in the third, plays the gifted Elise -- a psychic whose character takes center stage in this fourth (and final?) chapter.

By deeply exploring Elise's past traumas and obstacles, the film provides a textured character study of its central figure in a way that no previous entry has achieved before. Be forewarned: Portrayals of violent child abuse occur early on and frequently in this film, but it is subject matter that helps this "Insidious" chapter rise above the demonic and ghostly horrors of the first three films and into the far more sinister nature of the franchise's titles.

Called to the site of her childhood home by a stranger experiencing unexplained hauntings, Elise embarks on her most personal assignment yet with her sidekicks, Tucker and Specs (Angus Sampson and Leigh Whannell, the latter of whom also penned this entry's script and created the "Insidious" universe with horror director, James Wan).

Like all these films, the plot moves steadily despite some occasionally cheesy prose, but the scares are often innovative and great. 'The Last Key' uses suitcases, keyholes, night vision, and more to craft ingenious fright devices that jolt and excite (at one point, a colleague jumped and yelled out "Fuck me, man!" in response to one of the movie's unexpected "gotcha" moments). Coming from a body of work that includes but one previous horror film, director Adam Robitel has designed a crafty spook-machine with "Insidious: The Last Key" while adding a crescendo of character detail and emotion to the franchise's (hopeful) climax.

The film is obviously not without its issues, nor were its three predecessors, but if the "Insidious" franchise proves anything, it is that screw-it-all-riskiness pays dividends in the horror genre. This may be the more mainstream series of the Blumhouse oeuvre, but it still maintains that spirited abandon of a production company that kicked off its run with a $15,000 experiment ("Paranormal Activity") that went on to gross nearly $200 million. As long as these folks keep pushing genre boundaries, I'll be satisfied.