Director: Adam Robitel
Writer: Leigh Whannell
Starring: Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Caitlin Gerard
Now a quadrilogy, the Insidious franchise submits its latest thrill-ride The Last Key, providing yet more evidence that Insidious is one of the best places to go for modern horror.
Concurrently a prequel and a sequel, The Last Key bridges the gap between the franchise's 3rd and 1st film, chronicling another adventure of the Spectral Sightings trio. The fourth chapter of this horror franchise continues to deliver the same expertly crafted terror as its predecessors. Much of the credit must go to the franchise's now leading character, Elise Rainier (played by Lin Shaye); everyone's favourite ghost hunter, an endlessly likeable and oddly relatable character, and one that can pack a punch when the going gets tough. Much to the delight of fans, The Last Key directs almost all its focus at Elise, delving deeper into her upsetting backstory, as well as broadening our understanding of how she and her two 'sidekicks' came to be partners. Tucker (Sampson) and Specs (Whannell) once again shine as her 'out of their depth' tech-savvy assistants, mirroring the audience's skittish panic while simultaneously serving as the film's comic relief.
Speaking of humour, the sporadic comic scenes are welcome but avoid the trap of subtracting from the eeriness of the film. There are no awkwardly placed goofs, slotted in just for the sake of it, in order to manufacture a break in the tension - rather, they manifest themselves organically, borne from natural dialogue. It is a perfect balance, one which other horror films have tried and failed to achieve, but The Last Key walks this line effortlessly.
Despite much originality, including a writhing story-line boasting possibly one of the best twists in the series, The Last Key feels pleasantly familiar. The unmistakable eerie green hue which decorates the franchise is present again, now almost a trademark and something which makes the films instantly recognisable. Its constant but confident juggling of timelines continues to impress, as they are expertly maneuvered around one another. The wonderfully chilling crescendo of violins, normally heard during the opening credits, is sadly missing from The Last Key, the music appearing to be less of a player in this film, a shame considering its superb use in its predecessors. However, it is a winning template which Robitel and Whannell have continually adapted to create a brilliantly unnerving horror film.
A great strength of the Insidious film's is that they have always been exhibitionists, and The Last Key once again exploits this strength. Rather than relying on shadows, and smoke and mirrors to generate the frights - common approaches used in other horror franchises (e.g. Paranormal Activity, 2007-2015) - the Insidious films have never had any problem with showing the viewer exactly what they should be scared of. Frights in The Last Key continue to take a very physical but still very terrifying form, monstrous hands appearing from behind doors and ghosts appearing clear as day right before your eyes. It is a risky move, to reveal so much so soon, but the choking suspense which The Last Key pipes in maintains a constant crushing pressure throughout the film, easily counteracting this.
All these components make The Last Key a fantastic addition to a quietly confident franchise and one which is screaming for a continuation. The brains behind it chose its direction wisely, and are seemingly steering it only upwards.
In one line: The Last Key takes the best elements from is predecessors and hones them into a twisting and unnerving tale, while still refusing to follow the rules which govern the horror genre.