Insidious: The Last Key is the fourth film in the wildly uneven but fun franchise created by Aussie horror luminaries, James Wan and Leigh Whannell. Since the trousers-on-head bonkers Insidious: Chapter 2 the series has moved away from continuing the convoluted narrative and has instead fleshed out the backstory of Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) and her earlier cases.
The results are often a mixed bag because it’s hard to generate much tension when you know what happens next chronologically, however Lin Shaye is an absolute treasure and the concept of a 74-year-old protagonist heading up the normally youth-centic horror genre feels fresh and interesting.
Last Key takes a deep dive into Elise’s childhood and needless to say it was a shitty one. Elise’s dad, Gerald (Josh Stewart) is a hard drinking 1950s psychopath who frequently locks his daughter in a dungeon-like basement for indulging in supernatural shenanigans. This proves to be an especially bad idea as Elise accidentally summons a key-fingered entity who unleashes chaos in the lives of the living, and strangles her mum, Audrey (Tessa Ferrer).
Cut to the present(ish) day and Elise gets a call from a mysterious stranger, Ted Garza (Kirk Acevedo) a man who is being tormented by demons in the psychic’s long-forgotten childhood home. What follows is pretty much Insidious business as usual. Elise teams up with the always agreeable Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specks (Leigh Whannell) to investigate a creepy abode. Cue lots of jump scares, ill-advised solo trips into basements and cobwebbed rooms and eventually some freaky shit kicks off, including a rather rubbery-looking antagonist who probably should have been on screen a little less than he is.
The Insidious series has always felt like The Conjuring’s weirder, cheaper sibling. While both franchises were initially helmed by Wan, Insidious more readily embraces its innate low-budget goofiness and swings for the fences in terms of plotting. Last Key is a mostly enjoyable romp with a couple of decent scenes of genuine tension, although the whole caper becomes a little silly by the time the third act rolls around, causing a number of unintentional laughs.
Still, in terms of overall quality this is far more coherent than Chapter 2 and much more enjoyable than Insidious 3. Lin Shaye yet again delivers a nuanced, human take on a character that could easily have turned into caricature and director Adam Robitel (The Taking Of Deborah Logan) keeps things about as fresh as you can realistically expect from the fourth film in a horror franchise.
Slight but entertaining, Insidious: The Last Key is an enjoyable bit of disposable popcorn horror that will likely be embraced by the teen audience for which it’s clearly skewed.
Veteran Australian cinematographer Toby Oliver only started working in horror recently with Wolf Creek 2. Now he's an in demand lenser of fright flicks, having shot The Darkness, Insidious: Chapter 4 and the record-shattering Get Out.