Upon seeing that Insidious: The Last Key had been pushed to January, I got a little scared. Why? It’s a tradition that every year in January, we get a terrible and uninspired horror movie in the first week of the month. I was nervous that the Insidious franchise would fall into this trend. However, the fourth entry in the franchise doesn’t only avoid this trend, but it helps Insidious become one of the most consistently good horror franchises in years.

Starting right after the events of the third and just before the events of the first, Insidious: The Last Key finds parapsychologist Elise (Lin Shaye) coming back to her childhood home to deal with a new case. As the case unfolds, she is caught reliving her troubled past and finds a new troublesome demon.

Story Is Everything

If James Wan has added anything to the horror genre, it has to be the story. The Last Key offers us an extremely emotional backstory that helps the franchise feel more well-rounded. Digging up Elise’s backstory offers some of the franchise’s best moments and most disturbing imageries. The film doesn’t necessarily offer anything new but it messes with the tropes we’ve come to expect from this franchise. The Last Key contains probably the heaviest subject matter that both Wan or Whannell have ever dealt with and it definitely makes the film a lot more tough to swallow. But on the other hand, it offers a sense of genuine dread and a scary atmosphere rooted in reality.

source: Universal Pictures

The Last Key also delivers an exhilarating ride with plenty of twists and suspense. Whannell and director Adam Robitel find different ways to keep you engaged. They both deliver many suspenseful moments by messing with the timing of each scare, usually popping up at an unexpected moment. Though with many twists comes many lines and while the film can feel quite dialogue heavy, with performances as good as Shaye‘s, it’s easier to digest.

Third Act Trouble

The Last Key loses a bit of its charm during its climax. Though it manages to make its demon quite a terrifying figure, it doesn’t have quite the impact it should have. Insidious‘ signature and popular dimension, The Further, doesn’t quite pop visually or with the same heft it once had. The film never quite knows how to deal with its monster in the same way it does with its backstory. This is mostly due to the two new additions that come in the form of Elise’s nieces (Caitlin Gerard and Spencer Locke). Even as the film tries to connect them emotionally to Elise, it never fully translate to the film. However, it’s still enjoyable to see Elise kick some supernatural butt.

source: Universal Pictures

As with many of the Insidious movies, this latest entry falls in line with their inability to come through with their message: the monsters come from within. The Last Key takes much of its time to build up truly horrifying people only to let them off the hook before the film ends. It instead goes for a more straightforward message: everyone at their core is inherently good and it’s the demons that make one go mad. I still fail to find the horror in such message as other horror movies offer a much more depressing and brutal take on human nature.

Feminism And Horror

What truly saves Insidious: The Last Key, in the end, is the incredible Lin Shaye. If the Insidious movies have become vehicles to showcase the talent of Shaye than be it. At 74 years old, she is having the time of her life and is given the opportunity to shine in the most unconventional way possible. What other franchise is led by a 74-year-old woman? Almost none. Lin Shaye is a true star and in these films, she is able to be active, smart, brave, and above all, a total badass.

source: Universal Pictures

The Insidious movies have always paid homage to older horror movies from The Shining to The Amityville Horror and in Insidious: The Last Key, they return to basics while subverting ‘the final girl’ trope in the form of Shaye. It’s a reminder that horror films, while not always the most feminist, have consistently offered many opportunities for women to be in active, brave, and intelligent roles. From Nancy Thompson to Sidney Prescott to Ellen Ripley to Laurie Strode, the best roles for women have always been in horror and the genre doesn’t often get the recognition it deserves.

Conclusion: Insidious: The Last Key

The Last Key is another solid entry into the Insidious franchise. Lin Shaye continues to offer the best performances in the horror genre and The Last Key rewards her with a bigger meatier role. Even though the film detracts during the climax, it’s able to overcome it by having a strong story. Above all, The Last Key proves that there is still life in the franchise and solidifies its status among a small group: consistently good horror franchises. If anything, I’m finally ready for a fifth and final installment where we finally get to know what exactly Elise saw at the end of the second film.

Are you a fan of the Insidious franchise? Did you love Insidious: The Last Key?

Insidious: The Last Key came out January 5 in the US and will come out on January 12 in the UK. For all release dates, check here

Film Inquiry supports #TimesUp.

“The clock has run out on sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace. It’s time to do something about it.” Read the Letter of Solidarity here. Make a donation to the legal fund here.

Opinions expressed in our articles are those of the authors and not of the Film Inquiry magazine.
More from Zachary Doiron

SAW II: Horror Junkies’ Guilty Pleasure

Saw II might not be as strong or as fresh as its...
Read More