Insidious: The Last Key Review – Finally We Learn Elise’s Backstory
Directed by Adam Robitel
Since the first Insidious movie came out in 2010—Wait… what? Eight years ago?!—the character of Dr. Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) has become one of the few iconic heroes in the genre. Usually our horror idols are the villains, from Norman Bates to Leatherface; but sometimes we just want to root for the good guys. And there’s no one who does more good than Elise. She’s a brilliant psychic, clairvoyant, and demonologist; but above and beyond all that, she’s a kind and gentle empath.
Elise genuinely feels the emotions of those haunted by evil entities and fights for them with all her might. Insidious: The Last Key is a prequel, in which we learn how Elise got to be the way she is. The story starts with Elise shortly before she goes to supernatural bat for the Lambert family (though having seen Insidious or any of the sequels isn’t necessary for enjoying Chapter Four). She’s just recently teamed up with her paranormal investigator partners, Specs (Leigh Whannell, who also wrote the screenplay) and Tucker (Angus Sampson); and their first case as a team is her own: the house of horrors where Elise grew up.
We’re transported back in time to meet young Elise (Ava Kolker); her brother, Christian (Pierce Pope); mother, Audrey (Tessa Ferrer); and dad, Gerald (Josh Stewart). Dad rules the household with a proverbial iron fist, and everyone cowers in his presence… except for a certain demon, accidentally conjured by Elise.
The demon, dubbed Key Face, is still there lurking in the derelict structure Elise once called home. When she and Specs and Tucker are hired to vanquish him, their kickoff case could be their last! (Spoiler: It ain’t.)
James Wan and Whannell created the Insidious world, and up until now one or the other has been at the helm. So here fans get a different—yet reverent—take from director Adam Robitel. Robitel started as an actor (you may remember him costarring with Shaye in the 2001 Maniacs horror-comedies) but really came into his own as a filmmaker with his critically-acclaimed directorial debut, The Taking of Deborah Logan. I’m no fan of found footage, but I really enjoyed that film. And this one. While Robitel’s style differs from Wan’s—there’s less suspense and more horror in The Last Key—the story still fits into the canon nicely.
The main actors already have their roles down, and so their chemistry is great. The comedic relief from Specs and Tucker is as expected, and it’s always a pleasure to spend time with Shaye. The newcomers to the franchise are all great; character actor Bruce Davison (remember him in 1971’s Willard?) is an especially welcome addition.
The movie looks grim and gritty thanks to production designer Melanie Jones (The Purge) and cinematographer Toby Oliver (Get Out). As ever, composer Joseph Bishara’s score evokes chills.
My only complaint about the movie is the demon, Key Face. He’s just not relatable. However, the premise is clever: Since the town Elise grew up in is called Five Keys, and the entity has five fingers on each that that end in keys that can open any door and lock away any soul.
Whether you’ve seen the Insidious movies or not, if you like haunted houses and paranormal investigations, you’ve got to see The Last Key on the big screen.
Find out the origins of Elise Ranier’s unique supernatural gifts when she returns to her haunted family home in this emotional and gripping prequel.