The Insidious franchise (written by Leigh Whannell) has since it’s inception been a “hit or miss” with movie-goers. Depending on who you speak to, people either hate the acting, love the visuals, or simply love or hate the plot. Although the franchise is not Oscar-worthy, by any measurement of standard – as a lover of the horror genre, I found myself very satisfied with the overall franchise.
Now I have expressed in the last sentence my love for the horror genre as I find many horror films, of late, to be incredibly ad nauseam in their formulaic process; especially the ghost horror movies.
Dark atmospheres, cheap jump-scares, and most importantly a woman looking off into the dark for what appears to be minutes. No hyperbole. This formula is getting old and predictable.
Sadly, this is the formulaic process that the Insidious franchise uses as well – but they inject something else into their method, which some hate but which personally I find entertaining; more about that later on in the review.
It can be a trying task to live up to the original. This film by far doesn’t hit the mark of the first and barely even comes close to offering sufficient amounts of horror, an engaging plot or a memorable demon/spirit.
In spite of these lacking qualities, the film is by no means a total flop, and I found myself somewhat contradictorily immersed in the story.
So if you have not yet seen the movie then prepare yourself as we enter into “The Further” of my unbiased, brutal and horrifyingly honest review of Insidious 4: The Last Key directed by Adam Robitel.
My Spoiler-Free Review of The Plot
Insidious has never been known to have the most compelling and thought-provoking plots. As much of a fan as I am for this franchise, I must admit some of the plots are…meh.
The first movie and the second movie (both directed by James Wan) were very entertaining. The plot was alright at best, but it kept me on edge. However, for this inclusion in the franchise, I have to admit that I found the plot to be rather weak. The plot of this story felt more like a mystery than horror.
What was the ghost trying to reveal? What was the demon trying to unlock? “Jinkies” was the guy really… wait, wrong medium of entertainment and this is a spoiler-free review. This was feeling more like a Scooby Doo mystery during certain parts of the movie.
The Insidious 4: The Last key is a prequel to the first Insidious movie. Elise (played by Lin Shaye) is not yet wholly the brave and confident parapsychologist she is in the first Insidious film, and for me, I found this fantastic. Character development, although going backward in this movie, is what makes a story so great and immersive from an audience point of view. As an audience member, you feel more connected to the characters when you can see different sides of who they are.
This movie captures this concept very well. We get a very in-depth history of Elise, and this was something that I thoroughly enjoyed. Elise’s character, moot as this may sound, is truly the face of the franchise.
The story starts out with Elise as a child and we get a quick glimpse into the makeup of the family’s hierarchal system.
Elise has a wicked father who doesn’t believe in her powers and as a result, beats her because he thinks she is lying. She also has a younger brother who is terrified of her powers – believing she is making certain events in the house happen; just to scare him.
Elise’s only comfort, her anchor to reality (and this is salient as it plays out later in the movie), is her mother, who believes in her powers. During the opening of the movie, Elise releases a demon which would sadly kill her mother shortly thereafter.
After witnessing the horrific murder we are transitioned to the movie’s present, 2010, where Elise wakeups in a beat of sweat – still horrified over her mother’s death after all these decades. She receives a call from a man named Ted Garza (played by Kirk Acevedo) who now lives in her home pleading for help to remove a demon.
It is here where the story now enters into the realm of mystery and takes a huge step away from horror.
She goes back to her hometown Five Keys, a subtle nod to the movie, and meets the man who lives in her old home. It is apparent from the get-go there is something “off” about this guy (again with the predictable plots).
He welcomes her and her teammates into his house and tells her about certain events going on. As Elise explores the home she has small bouts of PTSD moments; all of which channeled memories of her father.
After spending the night in the house and finding something of childhood value, a whistle her mother gave to her brother as a child, she wakes up and goes to a restaurant.
It is here where she meets her two nieces along with her brother, whom she hadn’t seen in decades. One of her nieces has the same powers that she has.
And this is important as it adds to the story later on. Elise, along with one of her nieces, will become trapped in “The Further.”
Although there were a few excellent jump-scares, the overall plot was too cheesy for my taste; especially the ending.
Not to deluge in spoilers, but the ending, in which Elise is saved by a certain someone, is somewhat cringe-worthy.
However, there was one particular scene in the ending when Elise leaves “The Further,” and we get a quick glimpse of a particular character from the original movies which was a nice homage.
The Vibe: Spine-tingling and Stomach-aching
The screeching sounds of the violin that plays every time a ghost is about to appear are perhaps some of the most chilling sensations that I get when watching the Insidious movies.
What I love about this franchise is not the simple jump-scares but the lore of “The Further.” The whole concept of entering into another plane of existence is without a doubt one of the best aspects of the movie.
The notion that ghosts are scared to enter into a higher plane of existence is not too farfetched an idea. Imagine that our conscious, spirit, superego or whatever you want to call it, is indeed a metaphysical manifestation that continues on after our death.
Why move on to a higher plane of existence when all you know is “this” plane of existence? Why move on “further” to an unknown, instead of staying in your own home?
As individuals, a great many of us like familiarity. So why would our spirit, conscious or essence want anything different?
Many people don’t want to leave the comfort of their country, city, neighborhood, or home. So it is not that hard to believe that if there is a metaphysical aspect about us, that some of us wouldn’t want to leave this plane of existence.
Maybe that is just my interpretation, but this is what I get from “The Further” lore; these nefarious spirits wanting to remain in this world or to experience this world.
And to divert for just a moment – this is what a good story does. It gets people to interpret the story differently.
Now, what I love about this franchise, what I find to be so enjoyable – and there may be some who disagree – is the humor that is inserted into the films.
This franchise does an outstanding job of distinguishing itself from other ghost horror movies by injecting a bit of dry humor.
Elise’s sidekicks, Tucker (played by Angus Sampson) and Specs (played by Leigh Whannell), are hilarious. They genuinely add such a different feel to this movie and franchise.
Movies like, “The Conjuring,” and the truly horrifying, god-awful “Annabelle,” focus too heavily on the same tired formula.
And just to sidetrack for a second because this needs to be said. Annabelle was an absurdly horrible (and excuse the crass language) fucking movie. This was exactly what I was talking about earlier on in the review. It is movies like this that are making this genre ad nauseam to watch or review. You can’t expect to beat a dead horse thinking it will get you somewhere. That is lunacy. There are plenty of creative horror movies out there that do not rely on cheap bullshit formulas that have been overly used. How this movie is getting a sequel is beyond me. But I digress.
And not that this movie doesn’t do the same. But the injection of comedy, dry as it may be, is appreciated.
There is one particular scene where Elise and her teammates visit, for the first time, her old home. They meet Ted, the guy who called her. When Ted opens up the door there is a small introduction of the characters. And it is here where Tucker’s humor is injected – and injected flawlessly. Tucker tries to make a joke, but it falls flat.
Ted’s expressions of not understanding Tucker’s joke and Ted saying “I…I’m sorry I don’t understand” literally had me laugh. The dry humor in the franchise is one of the most brilliant aspects of this franchise.
Is it “Split” (directed by M. Night Shyamalan) brilliant – by no means NO; not to knock this franchise. But what is brilliant is the ability to try something and add something different.
Redundancy is the perennial killer for many ongoing franchises. (Trel Spiegel said that. Which if you didn’t catch… IS ME.)
This fearlessness that, “hey it may work, it may not work,” is what I love about the franchise.
Do the jokes feel out of place?
At times they do. But when they use it, and it just works – I find myself genuinely laughing at the execution.
The Franchise’s Swan Song: Was It a Good Farewell Song?
Insidious was a great movie and the second one helped to tie up the first movie’s ending nicely. In fact, I can say I was somewhat more impressed with the second than the first. But with this final inclusion, it is about time to turn the key on this franchise and lock the door on it – and Insidious 4: The Last Key does just that.
The plot is very much the weakest of all the movies entries, but I still did enjoy it overall.
As much as I loved the characters and the initial storyline, sometimes too much of anything can be bad. With the last entry into this franchise, I feel they did justice to the movie.
Was this movie a home run – absolutely not. Is it a nice swan song – a resounding yes.
My final grade for this movie is a C+.