Director Adam Robitel’s latest horror flick Insidious: The Last Key (2018) is the fourth installment of the Insidious franchise. Co-produced by Jason Blum, Oren Peli, and James Wan, this film bore Wan’s horror stratagem of appealing to basic human fears to evoke negative emotions such as tension, disgust, and fright among the audience. Like its predecessors, Insidious: The Last Key relies on creeping tension and unexpected to jump scares to entice the audience.
The film, chronologically, is a prequel in the series. Throughout the franchise, Elise Rainer, a recurring psychic character who is able to travel into the supernatural realm of the Further, has been reticent about her past. Though she’s made implicit references to her hapless childhood during the progression of the series, her childhood, for the most part, has been shrouded in secrecy. With the arrival of the fourth film, Elise’s personal history and psychic growth have been the focal points of the plot.
The opening scenes of the film introduces the audience to Elise’s family: a timid younger brother named Christian, a physically abusive father, and a powerless mother. Elise’s psychic powers were not universally well- received by her family. In particular, her father vehemently highly discouraged Elise’s claims of witnessing and interacting with supernatural beings. In one scene of the movie, Elise enrages her father when she claims to have been talking to an unnamed supernatural figure hiding in the closet, scaring her brother Christian in the process. As a matter of discipline, Elise’s father beats her with a cane and locks her in the family’s basement. All the while, Elise’s mother Audrey, who supports Elise’s claims and even tells her daughter to have confidence in her abilities despite her father’s disparagement, watches helplessly throughout the beatings.
Eventually, in a weird turn of events, Elise is lured deeper into the family’s basement and is enticed by a supernatural figure, Key Face, who tricks her into unlocking a wall. When Elise turns the key to the wall, she unknowingly allows Key Face to possess her. The house shakes as a result and Audrey goes down to the basement to investigate. She finds Elise shaking violently., and as herAs her back is turned, a wire descends from the ceiling. The wire slowly wraps its way around Audrey’s throat and strangles her. The rest of the film focuses on Elise’s supernatural growth and personal acceptance of the tragedy of losing her mother.
Surprisingly, the reception of the film is somewhat polarized. Ratings on the movie-reviewing site Rotten Tomatoes indicate that critics unfavorably viewed the film with 33 per cent% enjoyment. On the other hand, audience members on the site rated the movie moderately at 52 per cent.
The exploration of physical abuse, though dramatized, I thought, was necessarily graphic. Watching the painful expressions crossing Elise’s face as she was beaten, though it made me uncomfortable, shed light on the morally repulsive nature of child abuse. Another theme, such as estrangement—especially regarding Elise’s relationship with her brother Christian—was socially relevant to news of today’s dysfunctional families.
Generally speaking, the film was artistically well done. I thought the tension was slow but reached a satisfying climax. Moreover, though the film was saturated with a few jump scares and disturbed-looking supernatural figures, there were enough jokes and quips thrown around for comic relief.