The previous Insidious movie – titled Chapter 3 despite being set before the first two movies, therefore throwing anyone with numerical dyslexia into a cold sweat – opted down the (presumably cheaper) route of a prequel that continued the adventures of Elise Rainier and her comedy sidekicks Specs and Taylor. There’s something reassuringly sweet about a horror franchise that focuses on the actions of a woman comfortably in her mid-seventies fighting tooth and nail with the paranormal and besides, Lin Shaye is a national freaking treasure whatever way you slice it. While admittedly The Last Key may fall short of James Wan’s muscular original or even the scrapily convoluted sequel, a healthy clutch of genuinely entertaining plot twists manage to keep this entry head and shoulders above the rather forgettable and bland third movie by the injection of a some new blood.
Finally delving into Elise Rainier’s past properly this time (unlike Chapter 3 which had her sitting in a house mourning her husband) we meet our resident medium living in New Mexico when she is a young girl in 1953. Living in the shadow of the prison where her brutish father works, her powers manifest spectacularly first in a altercation with a dead person and then later on in which a brief possession by a demon leads to the death of her mother.
Considering Elise’s father isn’t the sort of man who would except a spot of possession as a viable excuse for a dead wife, he puts herconna steady diet of beatings until she finally runs away from home while leaving a younger brother behind.
Fast forward to the present (or 2010 to be exact) and we catch up with Elise in full ghost busting swing with her bickering sidekicks Specs and Tucker along for the ride but a phone call from a man currently living in her childhood home understandably causes her to miss a step. It seems he’s experienced some paranormal goings on and wants them stopped so the group heads off to New Mexcio for an emotional confrontation not only with whatever is lurking in her old house, but also with her estranged brother who now has two teenage daughters. However, a lot of things aren’t what they seem: were the visions Elise saw as a child REALLY of the dead, what seems to be corrupting the men who live in that house and who is the spindly, lipless demon who boasts the rather questionable manicure choice of having keys for fingernails? Soon it’s apparent that not only is Elise’s family in danger thanks to her return but it seems that yet another trip into The Further is in order to sort things out.
By now, the Insidious movies had found their rut and was content to sit in it as the basics of Leigh Whannell’s script are virtually identical to his three others for the previous movies of the series. However, even though the “scary shit – explanation – trip to The Further climax” pattern hasn’t really changed, the addition of some aforementioned left field plot twists keep thing fairly fresh.
Something else that finally seems to locked in place are the broad comedy stylings of Specs and Tucker which probably work here far better than they ever have in any of the other movies. Where sometimes their humor could feel a little laboured, the various running jokes (like the one that has Tucker sport a completely different haircut in each movie like Dr. Hibbert in Simpsons flashbacks) pay of pretty well and the duo are finally a welcome distraction to the scares, which are now starting to feel depressingly familiar.
However, sticking with the positive, the film also benefits from having the most memorable ghostly antagonist since the original film’s big bad: The Red Faced Demon. After such spooky S.O.B’s with such high falutin’ monikers as The Bride In Black and The Man Who Can’t Breathe, The Key Face is an welcome breath of fresh air. An emaciated wraith with the skin of it’s nose and mouth stripped off and the protruding nails of a velociraptor masquerading as a latino prostitute, Key Face has quite a few, memorably nasty, tricks up it’s digits like the unnerving abitliy to insert one of it’s finger-keys into your throat and “lock” off your voice and while it’s motivations aren’t anything new, visually he’s a welcome addition to the Insidious rogues gallery.
Another welcome addition is director Adam Robitel who casts a fresh eye over proceedings and dips the whole film in ghostly blues to give things a nice glossy feel but despite being a definite step up in style, story and scares from the rather dour Chapter 3, still is an epic stones throw from James Wan’s original.
Fans or those looking for undemanding scares will be well served but with the end of the film pretty much tying into the beginning of the first, it seems the franchise has finally closed it’s story loop which is a shame as a little Lin Shaye goes a long way and a reduced role for her isn’t really a good thing if the series continues.
Maybe, despite the rise in quality, it’s finally time to exorcise these old ghosts once and for all…