Lin Shaye Ain’t Afraid of No Ghosts
The Insidious franchise may have begun with Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne dealing with a demon in their home, but everyone quickly realized that demonologist Elise Reiner and her technologically proficient sidekicks Specs and Tucker were the real stars of the show. So how do you deal with the fact that Elise didn’t survive the events of the first film? Simple: you make the sequels into prequels.
Following in the footsteps of 2015’s Insidious: Chapter 3, the fourth film in the series takes place before the events of the first movie, bringing the great Lin Shaye back into the fold for another supernatural adventure. The first Insidious: The Last Key trailer is here and the lack of a number in the title is telling – the series is breaking free from the first few entries and is looking to chart a new course.
New course or not, the latest Insidious movie still looks like an Insidious movie, even if it looks far more polished than the scary but sometimes plucky (a polite way of saying “cheap”) earlier entries. Characters wander through dark rooms, sometimes with night vision cameras. Creepy things lurk into frame. Other creepier things burst into frame with a sting on the soundtrack. And then there’s the unsettling world of “the Further,” which has become an excuse for the filmmakers behind the camera to just cook up whatever nightmare fuel they want.
Insidious: The Last Key puts a franchise newcomer behind the camera: Adam Robitel, the director The Taking of Deborah Logan, an uneven but scary-as-hell movie that suggested he was ready for a promotion to the big leagues. Insidious franchise writer Leigh Whannell, who plays Specs and directed the third movie, once again contributed the screenplay. James Wan, who directed the first two films before becoming a much, much bigger deal with The Conjuring, Furious 7, and the upcoming Aquaman, is still on board as a producer.
While the Insidious movies have been sometimes uneven, I’ve consistently enjoyed each and every one of them. The first film is a spooky blast, truly feeling like one of those scientifically problematic Time Life books on secrets of the paranormal brought to weird, cinematic life. The first sequel is a hard left turn, so bonkers and so different that it demands your attention. The more conventional third movie is entertaining and creepy, but truly elevated by Lin Shaye, finally given the lead after providing such effective support in the first two movies. Quite frankly, I’m all about watching Insidious movies for the foreseeable future, especially if they’re going to pluck more interesting horror directors into the director’s chair and keep Shaye, a veteran character actress and unlikely horror genre hero, front-and-center.