Most horror filmmakers would be ecstatic to have one lasting franchise. If they're really lucky, they might create two. James Wan, with his Midas touch, has been behind three, count 'em, three successful horror franchises - Saw
, and The Conjuring
. Even the arguably weakest one, Insidious, has spawned three sequels, the last of which is the spanking new Insidious: The Last Key
Taking place after the events of Insidious: Chapter 3
but before those of Insidious
, Insidious: The Last Key
sees famed psychic medium Elise Rainier (series anchor Lin Shaye) and her ghost-hunting sidekicks, Specs and Tucker (Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson, respectively, also reprising their franchise roles), getting a call to investigate a house in Five Keys, New Mexico. The house is all too familiar to Elise - it is her childhood home, the place where she both discovered her paranormal gifts and had her father try to beat her into forgetting about them. When the team arrives, they discover that Elise must not only deal with the demon in the house, but the demons of her childhood as well.
For Insidious: The Last Key
, producer James Wan and the Blumhouse crew (speaking of the Midas touch!) have turned the directorial reins over to Adam Robitel (The Taking of Deborah Logan
). It's a good fit for the franchise; Robitel is a highly visual filmmaker, and with the help of cinematographer Toby Oliver (Get Out
, Happy Death Day
), he is able to transform seemingly every frame of the movie into a supernaturally horrifying image. Of course, the script was written by Leigh Whannell (who, along with playing Specs, also wrote all of the other entries in the Insidious
series), and the action is accompanied by another unsettling score from Joseph Bishara (who has composed the music for all of the Insidious
movies), so there's plenty of consistency to the film, even with the new directorial style.
Insidious: The Last Key
spends its first three-quarters spinning one hell of a paranormal mystery that takes the viewer through Elise's entire life, stopping off at her childhood and teenage years, and finally tying into the events of the present day. It's a great ride, full of surprises and shocks, twists and turns that keep the audience on the edge of its seat. There are plenty of red herrings and false flags, but it's not at all gimmicky or inorganic. It's just a great ghost story.
Where Insidious: The Last Key
falls apart is, frankly, when it turns into an Insidious
movie. Of course, Elise has to go into The Further (the name for the place where spirits live in the Insidious
movies), and that's the section of the film that starts looking and feeling just like every other Insidious
movie. It's something that audiences have all seen before, and honestly, something that's getting pretty tired.
Story-wise, Insidious: The Last Key
is a welcome change from the usual possession-oriented Insidious
movies. It's also nice that it focuses solely on the beloved character of Elise, giving the audience a few more pieces to the enigmatic puzzle of what makes her tick. It does fall into the same old trappings of the series, but that's to be expected; if it didn't, it would just be called The Last Key
(and probably wouldn't find nearly the same audience size). Basically, it's what viewers have come to expect from the franchise, plus a whole lot more.
There has always been a definite formula to the Insidious
movies, and the best thing that Adam Robitel brings to Insidious: The Last Key
is a change in the typical James Wan silence-then-deafening-scare motif. There's still plenty of suspense, but Robitel milks it in a different way, building tension slowly and steadily, letting the audience know that something is coming, but not what or when, until finally, he strikes. The best scare in the film occurs during a scene in which Elise is crawling through a ventilation tunnel of some sort. To avoid spoilers, that's all the setup that we'll go into here, but Robitel expertly plays with expectations and anticipations, alternatively setting the audience up and then lulling it back to sleep before actually presenting the inevitable scare. And when that inevitable scare comes, it's a doozy. There's still a bit of the old Wan loud scream type of scare tactic, but Robitel dials that stuff back some and tends to craft a fear that is built more through atmosphere and adrenaline. It's a refreshing - and terrifying - change.