The fourth instalment of the Insidious franchise returns eight years since the break out hit original. In terms of style and content not much has changed. There’s ghosts, jump scares and a very spooky atmosphere. Moving away from the family in distress motif the latest instalment narrows in on the history of Elise Rainier’s character, the medium Lin Shave.
In 1952 New Mexico a young Lin is raised in a small house with a big basement next to a penitentiary under the guardianship of her tyrant father and sympathetic mother. Her ‘gift’ of being able to interact with the preternatural leads her into hot water with both her father and poltergeists. Lin is kicked out of home at sixteen after one too many attempts from her father to beat her gift out of her.
Present day Lin, haunted by both her past and literal spirits, returns to that same family home of shadows and demons after a phone call from the new owner who gives off a distinctive Norman Bates vibe. With the pretense set up, nothing remains but to shovel jump scares down our throats until your nerves are shot, or the credits roll.
Lin doesn’t return alone; in tow are her two hapless minions, Specs (franchise creator and writer Leigh Wannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson). Without overstating it, the two jester sidekicks are critical to the success of the franchise.
With the frequent jump scares that a film like Insidious continues building and building it would be all to easy to overdo the tension and be uncomfortably overcome with unease. Wannell, and in particular Sampson, have great comedic timing, their quips and idiosyncrasies relieve tension and supply a reprieve between heart palpitating terror. Horror and comedy make fantastic bedfellows. Audiences react to both in a strikingly similar fashion – there’s no processing, just gut reaction, be it fright or laughter.
The Last Key has its ups and downs. The theme of familial relationships is overdone and handled clumsily with a little cheesiness. The creepy shrill violin strings that striked terror in prior films are disappointingly missing here. Compensating for this are the admittedly cheap but effective jump scares Adam Robitel brings to his sophomore film. The symbology of keys and doors permeating the film intrigues until the end of the feature. Creepy darth maul guy also makes a tantalising but brief appearance.
It may not reach the heights of the classics of prior decades but what it does, it does so well. To steal a turn of phrase from Stephen King, these films are the Big Macs of paranormal scare cinema. Along with frequent collaborator and fellow Melbournian James Wan, Wannell and Wan are the kings of contemporary horror. With the great chemistry and solid foundations Wannell has built with his three key characters, hopefully we will see them continue to grace our screens like a paranormal Scooby Doo trio.
Insidious: The Last Key is in cinemas from 8th February through Sony Pictures.