Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Adam Robitel

Stars: Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Bruce Davison, Javier Botet, Marcus Henderson, Kirk Acevedo, Josh Stewart, Caitlin Gerard, Spencer Locke, Tessa Ferrer, Ava Kolker, Pierce Pope.

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The fourth and (hopefully) final instalment in the supernatural Insidious franchise works as more of a prequel as it gives us the backstory of parapsychologist Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye), who has been the mainstay of the series since its inception in 2011. In the Insidious timeline, The Last Key fits neatly between the original film and Insidious: Chapter Two. The previous films have been relatively cheap to make but they have grossed a fortune at the box office. Most franchises have lost their impetus by the fourth instalment, but somehow Insidious: The Last Key proves to be much more satisfying film than the disappointing and lacklustre Insidious: Chapters 2 and 3.

The film begins in 1953, where Elise lives in her home situated in the grounds of a creepy old former prison on the outskirts of Five Keys in New Mexico. She was raised by her loving and sympathetic mother Audrey, and brutal father Gerald (Josh Stewart), a prison guard who tried to beat her psychic powers out of her. Eventually Elise fled the toxic environment for California, abandoning her younger brother Christian to the cruel torment of her father.

Fifty years later the elderly ghostbuster has established her paranormal psychic business. She receives a call from Ted Garza (Kirk Acevedo), the new resident of her former childhood house, who is being haunted by paranormal activity since he moved in. She reluctantly returns to exorcise this demon but also to confront the demons of her past. She also reconnects with the estranged and bitter Christian (now played as an adult by Bruce Davison), and his two teenage daughters, one of whom is threatened by the nasty villain Key Face – a demon with keys for fingernails (played by Javier Botet, from the recent Tom Cruise film The Mummy, etc).

Whannell has written the film, and it reprises many of the key elements of the previous films, especially as Elise has to cross over to the dark supernatural world known as the Further in order to rescue someone from an evil entity. But here, Elise also must confront her own personal demons from her past. The film is also littered with meta references to other films in the series.

Insidious: The Last Key has been directed by newcomer Adam Robitel, who is best known for his work on The Taking Of Deborah Logan, a horror film shot using the found footage aesthetic. He doesn’t stray too far from the formula established by creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell (of Saw fame). Robitel is a very visual filmmaker and he uses plenty of darkly lit interiors to heighten the mood, with some nice atmospheric cinematography from Toby Oliver (Happy Death Day, etc). He uses plenty of loud noises, creaking doors, smoke-filled corridors, and an uneasy soundscape to create some well-placed but predictable jump scares. Raised on ghost stories as a child, Robitel has a great understanding of the tropes of the genre, but he does tend to telegraph his punches though. The decrepit house itself is an important character in the film, and kudos go to production designer Melanie Jones (The Purge, etc).

This fourth film in the franchise places Shaye front and centre, and she has a strong presence. Shaye brings warmth and to her performance as Elise who is a strong if unlikely heroine. But her performance this time around is also more emotional as she has to confront the trauma of her own childhood memories, which adds some depth to the character. Angus Sampson reprises his role as Elise’s dim-witted sidekick Tucker, and he brings touches of quirky humour to his performance that leavens the darker edges of the material. Whannell also reprises his role as Specs, her technical boffin.

Insidious: The Last Key does have a certain familiarity about much of its action, but it also delivers what fans of the series expect. And, depending on its reception at the box office, it is unlikely that we have seen the last of this franchise.


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