While the number of sequels with “Last” or “Final” in the title which have actually turned out to be the last one are suspiciously few so don’t take “Insidious: The Last Key” at its word.
Franchise writer Leigh Whannell has set up things to allow for (audience willing) innumerable additional stories, though this marginally recommended effort doesn’t offer anything particularly new for the series, creatively-speaking.
The fourth (!) entry in the haunted-house franchise is another prequel, like 3 was, set after 3 but before 1 and 2, and focused on Elise Rainier (the returning Lin Shaye), the AARP-card holding psychic ghost-hunter who has emerged as the series’ improbable protagonist.
Aided by her comic-relief technical assistants, goofballs Specs (Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), Elise is the one that the main characters in previous films have called for help with their house-demons, but now we learn Elise’s own backstory.
A prologue depicting Elise’s childhood shows she’s always had “the gift” for communicating with spirits, which her mother (Tessa Ferrer) tried to foster and her prison-guard father (Josh Stewart) tried to beat out of her.
In the present (well, sort of, the 2010 present), Elise is rattled when she’s contacted by someone seeking her services who now lives in the very house she grew up in, still haunted after all these years.
The current resident, Ted Garza (Kirk Acevedo), reports the usual creepy noises, weird sightings, and such, and Elise, still bearing the physical and emotional scars of what happened to her and her family there, determines to get to the bottom of it — once and for all.
Tropes now familiar to “Insidious” fans appear again, including the mysterious coma that is actually an astral projection into a realm called the Further.
This installment also has an undercurrent of feminine outrage, with women standing up to the men (living and dead) who mistreat them, although this never quite gels into a fully developed theme. The plot doesn’t have any twists that you haven’t seen before, but it’s just unpredictable enough to keep things mildly interesting, and director Adam Robitel manages to achieve at least a few good, quick scares without any cheap tricks, so that’s something.
While this isn’t exactly an enthusiastic endorsement, it’s hardly a warning to pass on this one either. What elevates “Insidious: The Last Key” is veteran actress Lin Shaye, who has more than 100 film credits to her name in a career spanning more than 40 years, finally playing the top-billed main character.
Shaye is fully committed to portraying Elise’s pain, remorse, and strength with sincerity, and her performance is more tragic heroine than B-movie scream queen. She seem to be enjoying herself, which helps sell the movie that many have seen, in one form or another, before.
“Insidious: The Last Key” is rated PG-13 for a bit of profanity, a little violence and general, PG-13 spookiness and unsettling imagery. “Insidious: The Last Key” is playing local at the Claremore Cinema 8.