A decent set up gives way to quite a convoluted storyline in Insidious: The Last Key, the fourth instalment of the supernatural horror franchise co-created by Leigh Whannell. He has also served as screenwriter for the quartet. It started back in 2010 and the central figure is a psychic, Dr Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye). Where The Last Key differs from those before it is that it is tightly wound around Rainier’s own family and the demons that possess it.
Elise’s upbringing – and that of her brother Christian (played as an adult by Bruce Davison) – was fraught due to the treatment meted out by their father Gerald (Josh Stewart). Elise was born with the gift of seeing things. But Gerald beat Elise whenever she said she had seen a ghost. He worked as an assistant warden at a prison in 1954 (which is where this film starts).
Elise has invited her two partners in paranormal investigation, Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), to live with her. Elise is at a good place in her life. Things have settled down for her. Specs and Tucker are still running their business, Spectral Sightings, responding with Elise to calls from people experiencing hauntings. The team is waiting for its next job when Rainier gets a disturbing phone call from Ted Garza (Kirk Acevedo). Garza claims to be having an apparition problem in New Mexico. Elise freezes because the address Garza gives her is her childhood home; and her memories from that time are far from happy ones. Going back to the house she grew up in means returning to The Further, a place where pure evil lies in wait for the innocent. The real villain of the piece here is a character known as Key Face (Javier Botet). He has skeleton keys for fingers and uses those to kill people.
The Last Key is an origin tale. It takes us back to how Elise came to be and how she got her special powers. Some elements of the movie made more sense to me than others. Elise is clearly the glue that binds this franchise together, so concentrating on her back story was a good move. But I have grown tired of her lame and all but useless ghost-busting sidekicks. Sure, I understand the balance required in a film between drama, shocks and humour, but the stuff this pair dishes up is puerile.
And then as far as who is doing what to whom and who is to blame, it all gets a bit jumbled as the filmmakers adopt a “throw the kitchen sink at it” approach. More is not necessarily better. Still, if that is how they’re going to play it, greater clarity would be in order. In this case, direction comes from Adam Robitel (The Taking of Deborah Logan), who is new to the franchise.
On the plus side, there are some genuine scares and uncomfortable moments, which is what you want when you buy a ticket.
Director: Leigh Whannell
Cast: Lin Shaye, Bruce Davison, Angus Sampson
Release Date: 8 February 2018
Rating: MA 15+
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television