‘Insidious: The Last Key’ Review: Scary Good Fun That’s Surprisingly Heartwarming

Elise Rainier has spent a lifetime helping people rid their houses of malicious demons and spirits, but what happens when it’s her own home?

The fourth installment of the Insidious franchise finally gives us insight into the psychic woman at the center of the films, delving into her traumatic past and an equally traumatic present. There’s much more to Elise Rainier than meets the eye — and that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Elise’s “gift”, the ability to see and communicate with spirits, is met with mixed reactions as a child in the 1950s. Her mother is proud and supportive, while her abusive father is terrified of the so-called “curse,” and constantly beats her to make it stop. Elise still bears the scars on her back to this day. Her brother, Christian, is a scared little boy, but loves her no matter what. As much as she tries, she can’t control her powers; the family lives in a remote part of New Mexico next to the prison where her father works, and the house is full of bitter and vengeful spirits.

Desperate for approval and curious about the presence in her house, Elise is persuaded to unlock a mysterious door in her basement at the coaxing of an unknown voice. She may have unwittingly released pure evil into the world by doing so, as she is convinced to this day. She left New Mexico and never looked back, but, as we know, her gifts have never wavered. Then, she gets a call from a man desperate for help: there’s a dark presence in his home — the house she grew up in.

Along with Specs (Insidious creator and Last Key writer Leigh Whannelland Tucker (Game of ThronesAngus Sampson), Elise makes the journey back to the place that brought her so much pain nearly 60 years ago. In typical Insidious fashion, the film is reliant on jump scares and jarring music cues, namely courtesy of a mysterious demon named “Keyface.” Which really doesn’t make sense, considering his fingers are keys, but that’s neither here nor there. There are several great twists in the film, which is a testament to this horror empire producers James Wan and Jason Blum have built. Four movies in, and Insidious: The Last Key still manages to surprise.

For all the jump scares and sinister overtones, what’s most shocking about this film is that it’s truly about family. In fact, it’s even downright heartwarming. Elise reconnects with her past, and therefore gets a new future. The great Lin Shaye doesn’t get enough credit for her performance in these films. Her portrayal of Elise is heartbreaking, feisty, and resilient. How great is it that we have a successful movie franchise featuring an elderly woman as the hero?

It may be called The Last Key, but the ending scene of the film sets up what’s likely a fifth movie. Nothing has been announced yet, but from what we saw, it’ll be an exciting one.

Insidious: The Last Key hits theaters on Friday, January 5.

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