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[Review] ‘Insidious: The Last Key’ is the Franchise’s Best Film Since the Original

[Review] ‘Insidious: The Last Key’ is the Franchise’s Best Film Since the Original

There’s no evil spirit that demonologist Elise Rainier can’t conquer. Be they dark entities which seek possession, atrophied souls clinging to the realm of the living, or grin-ingrained ghosts drifting aimlessly through The Further, there’s not a single monster who has proven too great of a trial for the famous doctor and her two sidekicks, Tucker and Specs. She’s traveled all over the world, aiding the helpless and protecting the innocent, but now, Elise will come face to face with her biggest challenge yet – her very own childhood home.

Audiences first met Elise back in 2010 with the introduction of the first entry in James Wan’s horror franchise, simply titled Insidious. Fans were introduced to Wan and writer Leigh Whannell’s paranormal world by way of “The Further”, another realm of existence that resides alongside our own, in which passed over spirits and meddlesome ghosts lurk in smoky darkness, waiting for a chance to reconnect with their loved ones. However, there is more in this world of eternal black than just lonely apparitions hoping to reach out to the families who outlived them. Some of these entities have a much more sinister agenda. 

That’s where Elise comes in. In 2010 the Lambert family reached out to her in the hopes of curing their son, Dalton, whose once lively persona now seems to carry a shadow over his heart. When doctors fail to provide a reason for Dalton’s worsening sickness, and strange paranormal activity begins to liven the quiet halls of this spooky suburban home, the family begs Elise for help, and she answers the call. Using her gifts as a medium, Elise first makes contact with the spirit world, then enters the realm of The Further, finding and retrieving their lost little boy, but not without paying the price of her own life in the process.

Throughout the course of the following films, some of which serve as prequels, we watch Elise give every last piece of herself to families in need, battling atrocities and ridding evildoers from the land of the living. It seems as though there’s no fiend she can’t conquer – that is, until she’s called upon to revisit her own childhood trauma, and re-enter the girlhood home that has brought her greater pain than any demon could ever dish out. For Elise, slain souls can be tricky, but there’s no tougher monster than the abusive man who raised her all those years ago.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the fourth installment of the supernatural series, Insidious: The Last Key is how grounded in reality the latest entry actually turns out to be. What started out as an admittedly frightening but altogether playful horror franchise has now morphed into a shockingly insightful commentary on the abuse that so many people have been dealt at the hands of those they hold dear. After all, as Whannell smartly points out with his latest script, the scariest entity many of us have learned to fear in real life isn’t what’s hiding underneath our beds, but rather, the man holding the roof over our heads, and the damage he duels out on a daily basis. Those are the real experiences that haunt us for life. 

Director Adam Robitel, known previously for his chilling found footage film The Taking of Deborah Logan, does a terrific job in driving this point home. While on one hand he recognizes the need for iconography in a globally successful franchise such as this, taking it upon himself to add the ‘Key Face Demon’ to the mix in a script which previously had no supernatural Big Bad, he also understands the importance of establishing the film in a more realistic setting to make it more relatable for viewers. Therefore, there’s less time spent in the foggy realm of the Further, and more time spent establishing characters we care about, increasing their value onscreen and thereby making the audience feel more frightened when their lives become endangered.

However, the real star of this production is longtime horror icon Lin Shaye, and it’s a treat that feels long overdue. Although Shaye was always an undoubtedly important title character in the previous films, this is the first time that the story completely revolves around her, and the film is made better for it. It’s Elise’s childhood home that we’re investigating, it’s her secretive past we unfold, and ultimately, the ghost and traces of Elise’s abusive father that morphs into the impossible obstacle to conquer. Clearly, Shaye was meant to carry this series all along, as The Last Key proves to be the best Insidious film since the original debuted almost a decade ago. It’s a franchise that has become a global phenomenon based on its eerie, otherworldly nature, but in the end, it’s the grounding of the characters in a more realistic setting with the sweet-natured and wholly relatable Lin Shaye in the lead role that truly makes inclusion a segment to remember.

Unfortunately for longtime horror fans like this writer, some of the final moments are somewhat easy to predict. It’s just what happens when you spend years and years gobbling up every scary movie you can get your hands on and deconstructing their methods and villains and plot devices. Eventually, you learn the tricks, and you can spot the twists and turns coming a mile away. The Last Key is definitely worth seeing, especially if you’re keyed on finding out what happens next to the iconic demonologist and her side-splittingly funny wacky crew, but fans of the genre might be slightly disappointed to find themselves guessing the ways in which Elise handles her latest battle with the dark world that hides in the shadows of everyday life. Still, it’s truly exciting to see Shaye be given the role she’s always deserved, and Robitel proves to be a worthy director in a franchise that previously only belonged to Wan and Whannell. These folks know a thing or two about keeping the tension heightened, and backing up that surface paranoia with an underbelly of perceptive observation.



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COMMENTS

56 Comments
  • 0Father0Satan0Sun

    I have never watched anything off of Insidious but I enjoyed walking through that maze in Universal Studios Hollywood earlier this Halloween. Are Insidious movies any good?

    • pablitonizer

      the first one is really good, the second one is good (not as good as the first one) and the third one was OK to me…

    • Unknown User

      No its aimed at young teens and makes some stupid decisions taking away all the horror elements.

    • Creepshow

      Unlike many other shit franchises, Insidious movies tend to be surprisingly above average.

      • HeWaTcHeSnOeYeS

        k.

        • Creepshow

          l.
          m.
          n.
          o.
          p.

          • DukeStKing

            q.
            r.
            s.

    • Saturn

      The first one is a pretty good (although the final act is a little flawed) Poltergeist remake, Insidious 2, again, is okay, but the weakest of the trilogy – a let down really, but it had some good ideas, Insidious 3, which is a prequel, is arguably the best of the bunch – but it depends who you ask – some love it, others hate it.

      If you’ve seen – and enjoyed – The Conjuring, then you’ll probably have a good time with the franchise. It’s pretty good.

      • Creepshow

        At first I had no intentions of seeing part 3, because I was a little let down by the second film. But I had nothing to do one day so I caught it at the end of its run in theaters. And to my surprise, it was way better than I thought it would have ever been (better than 2). It had a lot of heart to it. And although jump scares never get me, Insidious 3 had a great one that made me jump out of my fucking chair and curse out loud. When the girl got hit by the car, caught me off guard and sent me flailing.

        • That jump scare made me turn the movie off! Insidious 2 was so lackluster for me compared to how much I enjoyed Insidious 1, so I decided to watch 3 with headphones and in the dark, boy did i nearly have a heart attack from that scene! Lol

          • Creepshow

            I was actually ashamed of myself afterwards.

        • Dylan Gutierrez

          I never understood that scare. She walked out into the road and stood there for a while and this car came at a Nascar driving speed and whacked her.

          I get there’s the entity playing involved but first, I asked myself. What street was she crossing where average people drive like that? Lol.

        • I fucking hate that jump scare. Every time someone steps into a road in a movie I call it, because I’m so used to jumping out my skin like I did in Insidious 3. Didn’t anyone learn the green cross code at school?! WHAT IS THE WORLD COMING TO?!

          I don’t think any jump scare will top the Exorcist 3 hospital scene though, I still struggle to watch that.

  • GunsOfNavarone

    WELL… I didn’t expect that!

  • Unknown User

    I’m sorry but the first movie was really lackluster. The whole movie was ruined when they tried to introduce the comedy characters and then put the demon in some sort of shitty nightmare on elm street dream world. That movie had tons of potential but I regretted watching it just like I did the conjuring but my girl at the time loved supernatural ghost horror movies and I never really have.

    • Alanmac

      I’m with you about Insidious. I was okay with it until “the further” garbage was introduced. Haven’t seen any of the sequels strictly because of that. I did enjoy The Conjuring tho.

      • turk

        Ditto. That creepy little dancing kid ghost that kept playing the music was great. Then they got all “other dimension” and it fell apart. But really, I enjoyed the movie overall. It’s just very rare to have good endings to ghost/paranormal movies.

    • HeWaTcHeSnOeYeS

      The third act is literally just a remake of Poltergeist’s whole run time.
      and Poltergeist was hardly flawless as it was, so even worse when James Wan just took it and poorly integrated it into an ok first two acts of a movie.

    • IMO the first was fun and was an interesting twist on paranormal horror. Even from the ‘INSIDIOUS’ title card it didn’t take itself too seriously and I liked that. It did lose me a bit with the whole Further thing, but overall I enjoyed it a lot. I also enjoyed 2 and 3, but with each sequel I lose more interest and at this point I don’t even feel the need to see 4.

  • Creepshow

    I wish i could believe this AND read the article. But Kalyn tends to like doodie, and she spoils the living piss out of everything she writes about. So I guess I’ll find out for myself this weekend.

    • American Atheist

      I’ve learned my lesson to not read any reviews from BD until after I’ve saw the movie being reviewed. I took a chance just reading the header. BD doesn’t do movie reviews, they do word for word retellings of the movie.

    • I’d say it’s a worthy follow up for the series. I found the second “interesting” and the third forgettable. This one at least tells a strong story with an emotional core to carry it through the runtime, and some of the scares are inventive and true seat crawlers…my favorite outside of the original.

      • Creepshow

        I didn’t find the story all that strong. I found Chapter 3 to have more heart than any of them. The girl’s mother dying from cancer, the girl having to cope with a widowed father, finding out Elise’s husband committed suicide, and ultimately the girl’s mother saving her from the demon from beyond the grave.
        As for the scares in The Last Key? I thought they were weaker than whale poop. I don’t know how many times you’ve seen Chapter 3, but give it another spin. No other Insidious movie comes close to bringing a tear to your eye than this one. 🙂

  • Carl Chrystan

    It’s annoying that awful cash-grab s**t like this takes up space on web pages and in cinemas and people don’t get to hear about genuine horror films that are good.

    • HeWaTcHeSnOeYeS

      Welcome to the horror community, where nobody actually appreciates well made products.

      • 0Father0Satan0Sun

        Horror nerds are always like that. Some horror fans thought a panned film is superior to a acclaimed film. I don’t get it that and I always notice that most horror nerd do actually love crappy remakes and reboots. Yuck.

  • Creepshow

    Nope, not falling for it. Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, fucking shame on you again!

  • HeWaTcHeSnOeYeS

    Article translated: Let’s not demand anything from cinema that could be in any way challenging to us, and just let Hollywood shit in our mouths every time and accept it by paying with our hard- earned cash.

    • Weresmurf

      Edgy bruh…

  • MrX13

    Well, I am looking forward to watching this new chapter in the Insidious series. They all are really good and intertwine within each other.

    • Creepshow

      Except for the end of Chapter 2. They have ignored that ending like a red-headed stepchild.

      • MrX13

        I don’t remember the ending of p2. I’m going to have to rewatch it.

      • Liz

        OH MY GOD! Every time a new Insidious is announced, I always hope it’s the conclusion to the Lipstick Demon story…like ‘cmon!

  • HalesTales

    I’m a fan of the series and I’m really looking forward to seeing this; with gift cards from Christmas, nonetheless!

    Thank you for a spoil-free review!

  • gary41172

    I’ve enjoyed the Insidious series and look forward to seeing this! People obviously enjoy these films, otherwise, we would have sequels/prequels. Just cause one doesn’t enjoy a movie, doesn’t mean it sucks, just as everyone has different opinions about what scares them. 🙂

  • LoPanKnows

    Not surprising since 2&3 are not very appealing….

  • Nahuel Benvenuto

    excuse me if i have cautious scepticism, but the reviews on BD are often bloated with hyperbole

  • Geno1987

    A 4th movie in a series where each one is less interesting than the other, released in January…yeah, I think you’re full of shit.

  • 2 was dumb. 3 was bad. No interest in seeing 4.

  • Looks like someone got once again paid for writing a positive review.

  • Adean

    The first one was pretty scary. James Wan is the master of the jump scare and the thing I like the best is that there are never any fake-outs in his movies. Never a cat jumping into frame or the boyfriend playing a trick. That being said, “Insidious 2” annoyed me and “Insidious 3” bored me. This one just… doesn’t look good at all. That thing with the keys is not scary. I will probably still see it, but my expectations are basement level at this point.

  • I always enjoy an Insidious movie but like every other paranormal franchise they quickly get repetitive and stale, and I can’t see how “Insidious 4” and “franchise best” could be mentioned in the same sentence.

    Maybe after An Insidious Conjuring 3: Annabelle vs. The Nun they’ll finally run out of ideas and give that poor dead horse a rest.

  • Lee W D

    I’ve always enjoyed the Insidious films. I don’t hate any of the films so far. I know they are marmite with some people but I look forward to seeing the 4th instalment.

  • Reanimated Charlie

    I never enjoyed Insidious. To me, it played out like an inferior The Conjuring.

    • But Insidious came out 2 years before The Conjuring….

      • Reanimated Charlie

        And The Conjuring exceeded it in every way.

  • Matt Miller

    These movies stopped being good after the first one

  • I loved ‘Insidious’, but wasn’t as impressed with ‘Insidious 2’. This entry into the catalog looks pretty cool and I hope it delivers.

    James Wan is a good director who always seems to be full of suprises. I didn’t expect to like ‘Annabelle’, but was pleasantly suprised. I heard ‘Annabelle Creation’ was good, looking forward to it. Thought ‘The Conjuring’ was good, but liked ‘The Conjuring 2’ even better. I also think ‘The Nun’ about Valak has potential, too. That demon nun was a scary bitch…

    • Number 3 wasn’t bad! Definitely a lot better than 2. I’m looking forward to this one as well.

    • Rick Sanchez

      Annabelle Creation was very good, much better than the first Annabelle movie I thought. I’ll definitely be watching The Last Key soon.

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  • Joseph Rand

    It was nice seeing Specs and Tucker return to the big screen lol. I liked the movie. It was fun.

  • Brad Parks

    Worst of the Series… This review is a joke…

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