Insidious 4: The Last Key begins like one of those mutant origins story in the X-Men franchise. The superhero of this franchise, of course, is veteran ghosthunter, Elise Rainier (who Lin Shaye continues to play with great composure). She has featured in every one of the last three films, and has always managed to bring in much warmth to the cold, haunted houses she’s constantly invited to. Writer Leigh Whannell (who directed the last Insidious film) has realised that Elise is the heroine of the franchise, the Warrens of this Conjuring so to speak. He wonders what Elise’s childhood must have been like. Did she always have her powers? How did her parents react to her odd behaviour? The opening portions of the film are its best, as you’re introduced to the horrors — not always caused by ghosts — in the Rainier house. “It’s a house, not a home,” as Elise later clarifies. There are some inventive jumpscares — the first one especially is a thing of great beauty. That this episode is in a period setting adds to the eeriness of the atmosphere — a rusty television playing news of the war, a jaded officer, a timid brother, a creepy girl… For a while, there’s good rewards to be had from the clever decision to delve into Elise’s childhood.
Insidious 4: The Last Key
Director: Adam Robitel
Cast: Lin Shaye, Josh Stewart, Angus Sampson, Caitlin Gerard, Spencer Locke
Just for a while though. Because once this little portion gets over, the narrative shifts to the present, and that means a resumption of normal horror service. They try to spice up proceedings by raising the stakes. This isn’t just another case for Elise, as it was in the previous films. This is one that necessitates that she confront the demons of her childhood — literally too. Director Adam Robitel makes this plentifully clear when Elise and her two associates (“a psychic and her sidekicks”) step into her former home and the voice on the television says: “History always repeats itself. The ghosts of the past will haunt the present.”
Her two associates — creepy flirts — are used to provide comic relief. Even during a time of supposedly great tension — as one of Elise’s nieces is preparing to step into the Further for a date with the demon — one of the associates, under the pretext of calming her, touches her shoulder. The other, in jealousy, warns: “Don’t come into contact with the subject.” Even the little tension that was previously present dissipates. They really serve more as annoying distractions than comic relief.
The resolution, and how it’s achieved itself feels like a rehash — despite one rather interesting twist. The red door, the captured souls, the fog… it’s everything you’ve seen and grown fatigued of. There’s even a bit of melodrama as a character’s mother steps in to save the day, much like Molly Weasley at the end of Harry Potter: “Not my daughter, you b****!”
Again, just in case you are too obtuse to get the whole familial redemption angle, Adam gets Elise to spoonfeed you, when she, totally uninvited, tells her associates that all along, she thought she was scared of death, when what she was actually scared of, was dying without family. The associates, who are still very much in character and hence, more interested in pestering Elise’s nieces, respond with a ‘Eh, whatever’ look. As the film comes to an end, and Elise gets a call from yet another haunted house, I found that my look bore some resemblance to the one the associates had thrown Elise earlier.
This review was written for Cinema Express, the cinema division of The New Indian Express. All copyrights belong to the organisation. Do link to its page if you’d like to share it.