The Further

Insidious: The Last Key

insidious

Parapsychologist Elise Rainier is back, and this time her newest case will take her to where it all began. A man calls asking for Elise’s help. It turns out the man lives in her childhood house. Elise is forced to remember her tragic past and the horrifying events that lead up to her returning to her hometown. She must solve this case in order to save her family from the demon that ruined their lives.

I want to start by giving some context to the film as it is technically another prequel to the first two installments. This film takes place after Elise has helped Quinn, and before she helps Dalton. The timeline for the Insidious films is as follows: Insidious: Chapter 3, Insidious: The Last Key, Insidious, Insidious: Chapter 2. That being said, there is a lot of timeline overlap between the films thanks to the Further breaking the rules of time and flashbacks. The best part of this installment is that it finally gives me what I wanted; more of Elise’s backstory. Through a series of flashbacks and dream sequences the audience finally gets to learn about Elise’s childhood and the events that lead her becoming a parapsychologist. It is the strongest aspect of the film, and I wish there was much more of it.

Much of the downside to this film is when we get to the present. The first half of the film deals with more of Elise’s past, but when we see the investigation at her childhood house things begin to spiral downward. The main issue is that the filmmakers attempt to cram too many subplots into one story. There is Elise’s origin, the investigation at her old house, and what happens when she once again enters the Further. While any two of these would work well together, having all three storylines together in a single film is a bit much. As a result, while Elise’s backstory feels more complete, the other two subplots are underdeveloped. It gives the impression that the resolutions come too quickly and too easily. Especially when looking at what happens in the Further, there is virtually no explanation for much of what is shown. What’s even worse is that we never get a true sense of what the ultimate villain is trying to achieve or why. Many of his actions have no purpose, or at least not one that is apparent to audiences. If you look back at the early trailers and some of the promotional stills from the film there are several scenes that were not in the final cut of the film. It makes me wonder what this film could have been and if there was more explanation before the studio got their hands on it.

Along with Elise’s backstory being a strong point for The Last Key, Elise herself is likely the strongest aspect of the entire Insidious franchise. Lin Shaye (Insidious, Insidious: Chapter 2) has been the one constant as Elise throughout the films. She always delivers a strong performance, and the fact that a horror film franchise focuses on a strong elderly woman is absolutely fantastic. Shaye makes the most of this film, despite some of the clunky dialogue, and makes audiences fall in love with her all over again. No matter what, Shaye shines through and commands the screen. As always, Elise has her trusty sidekicks by her side in this installment. There is Leigh Whannell (Insidious, Insidious: Chapter 2) as Specs and Angus Sampson (Insidious, Insidious: Chapter 2) as Tucker. They bring some heart and comedic relief to the thrills and chills of the film.

The Insidious films are known for having iconic and stylistic demons. The Last Key is no different. The villain, known only as KeyFace, has some disturbing creature design created with prosthetics, which are worn by none other than Javier Botet (Mama, REC). Unfortunately the amazing character design gets lost in the lack of character development. It is unfortunate that Botet’s talent is somewhat wasted in this fantastic design simply because the character is weakly written. Despite that, he is still frightening and he is the focal point for several scares throughout the film. Much like in Chapter 3, The Last Key relies heavily on jump scares and lacks some of the more subtle scares of the first two films. This film succeeds the most in building the anticipation for the jump scares. The filmmakers make you wait and wait, knowing that jump scare is coming, before the scare is finally delivered. Unfortunately, in many cases, the anticipation is more thrilling than the actual scare, but there are still plenty of frightening moments.

Insidious: The Last Key fulfills my wish of learning more about Elise, but it is still probably the weakest installment of the franchise. There are simply too many subplots, not enough development of those subplots and characters, and there are several weak points in the dialogue. Despite that, there are still some positives of the film. Elise has a fascinating backstory that audiences finally get to learn, and Shaye does a fantastic job reprising the role of Elise. While we don’t get enough information about him, the design for KeyFace is still quite iconic and disturbing. I only wish there had been more focus on him as a villain and his motivation. The Last Key completes the story of Elise in the Insidious franchise. It is an important piece of the puzzle worth watching, but I can only hope there is a director’s cut in the future that will give fans something more polished.

OVERALL RATING: 5.5/10

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Insidious: Chapter 3

Three years before the Lambert haunting, Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) was ready to quit being a psychic. Then a teenage girl comes to her for help communicating with the girl’s dead mother. The girl does not heed Elise’s advice and tries to contact her mother on her own, leading to dire consequences. An evil spirit heard her calls and has latched on to her. Elise soon realizes she cannot stop doing what she was made to do. It is up to her to stop the entity from slowly killing the girl and imprisoning her soul.

The first thing I will say about this film was that it was down-right scary. There were multiple times that it made me jump, even when I knew something was about to come out and scare me. That being say, it seemed like the film relied very heavily on the scares to carry the story along. Throughout the film they constantly used scare tactics to make audiences jump out of their seats, which worked very well, but they relied so heavily on the scares that the story was a bit lacking. It was almost like every five minutes something was popping out to say “boo.”

The best part about this film, and the entire Insidious franchise, is Lin Shaye. She is an amazing actress, and her character in these films is so easy to love. It seems like this film was almost meant to be an origin story for Shaye’s character, Elise, but it was muddled a bit by the story of the poor teenage victim, Quinn (Stefanie Scott). I really feel the film would have been so much better if they had made it solely about Elise, and only involved Quinn’s story when it related Elise helping her. Considering the fact that this is a prequel, it only seems logical that it would focus on Elise. This would also have provided more opportunity to build on the mythology that was built up so well in chapters 1 and 2. There were definitely a couple attempts at adding to the mythology, such as Elise talking about the “woman in black” that wants to kill her and explaining how Elise first met Tucker and Specs, but it didn’t seem sufficient.

The acting in this film was phenomenal. Shaye, of course, was amazing as always. While her character was absolutely infuriating with how stupid she was, Stefanie Scott still did an amazing job as well. She just kept doing the most idiotic things, and she was so oblivious to the danger she was in it drove me crazy. My dislike for her character had more to do with the way she was written than her acting ability. I also loved The Man Who Can’t Breathe (Micheal Reid MacKay). Even though his character says maybe two words in the entire film, he is so good at emoting through what little we can see of his face and through his body that he sends chills down your spine. I may also be a bit biased when it comes to MacKay just because he played the mummy in one of my favorite movies of all time, The Monster Squad.

Visual effects are extremely important in horror films. The Insidious franchise does a great job in that department. The way they portray “The Further” I find especially effective. They keep it almost entirely black with fog drifting throughout, using only a single lantern to focus your attention on wherever the light is. The makeup they created for MacKay’s character was especially interesting. They used very minimal effects, making him look thin and sickly, while also giving him the appearance of having a decaying body with sallow skin and thinning hair.

Insidious: Chapter 3 was very successful in the sense that it delivered the scares and kept your eyes glued to the screen. It also brought back everyone’s favorite character, Elise, and told us a little bit about her life before she dealt with the Lambert haunting. There is definitely room for improvement. The story should have focused more on Elise, and relied more heavily on a quality storyline rather than the scares. Either way, the film was really entertaining and was a generally successful installment in a terrifying horror film franchise.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10