It’s interesting how a certain film – when it ends – you know that tonally it. Has. Ended.
All films can continue of course, as happily ever after is a myth no matter how you look at it. But there are certain movies that – when they become franchised – make you not only go “why?” but “how?”. Ie: It’s original ending has a decisiveness that makes it very clear This Story Is Told.
A great example is The Matrix. If they truly intended Neo to continue being a protagonist they wouldn’t have made him Superman at the end of the first film. It was a problem that painted the Wachowski siblings into a corner for the sequels, and what’s more they never got around it. Not satisfactorily anyway. (Fortunately, they covered over that crack by making both sequels so incomprehensively bad you almost didn’t notice the pointless 10-minute fight sequences).
Another example is Insidious. The franchise that colours the letters of its logo randomly white and red. (well…if they’re not random, then they spell out INDOS SIIU – which sounds like a Star Wars character. Probably a Jedi of some sort).
At the end of the first film it pulls a now very classic/hackneyed (depending on your point-of-view) trope of having the bad guy “come back” (after being dealt with) to kill off a character when everyone thinks the terror is over.
In this case a side character who was sweet, old and psychic.
They then decided to make this character the lead in subsequent sequels – which was a problem. A problem compounded when they set movie 3 & 4 in the past, thereby making an elderly actress (Lin Shaye) play a dead woman who inexplicably looks older the younger she gets.
It would have been an easy fix had they planned it through better, but who knew that their tact to focus the sequels on the adventures of an elderly minor character would be a stroke of genius? Because Insidious is one of those rare birds that gets slightly better with each sequel.
Although a lot of its success can also be attributed to the fact that in terms of how they construct their scares, this series is an absolute masterclass in the James Wan Way. (Or JWW for short – it’s the MMA of horror film making!).
So where does this leave us with Insidious Chapter 4: The Last Key?
Setting wise we get to learn more about Shaye’s character (Elise) as it opens on her family life in 1953. It’s not a happy one. As a young girl she lives with her younger brother Christian, mother Audrey and father Gerald. Gerald is a security guard at the prison next door – the one that carries out executions of its death row inmates. Regularly. And for a budding psychic like Elise, what better way to hone her craft than being fed a steady stream of floating electrified (and terrified) souls who were more than likely NOT very nice people in life?
Things escalate when Elise encounters a being that is something other than fried convict – her first demon – who she calls Key Face.
Key Face then does something very bad that, safe to say, scars Elise for life. That is when we fast forward to present day, which – for the afore mentioned reasons above – has to be a little before present day, as Elise was (will be) killed in 2010. It’s weird that none of these characters will ever get to use an iPad. Sorta like how the best mobile phones the people in the Matrix will ever use are Motorolas…
But I digress.
Elise and her ghost busting crew of Specs and Tucker are approached by a man called Ted Garza. He resides in Elise’s former house and sure enough, weird stuff of the paranormal kind have been plaguing him of late. And Elise – in a bid to confront her demons (literally and figuratively) agrees to go back and help him sort it out.
As a ride The Last Key twists in a satisfactory way whilst continuing the fine work of the last 2 sequels. The scares are finely crafted and (to differentiate them) a tad more relentless this time round.
The JWW use of shadows and sound effects are on full display here, and (has been the case with the others) this film ties itself into the first one, although this time it does imply that the series MAY be gearing up for another change in direction. How? One word. Nieces.
And officially a 5th Insidious IS in the works, although it may not have creator Leigh Whannell’s hand on the typewriter. (Mind you, if you were responsible for a 4-film franchise that has grossed over $536 million to date, you too could probably afford to delegate a little).
Certainly The Last Key was able to unlock a profit margin well over 10 times its modest budget of 10 million, and if you can read anything into that, it would be that these guys have the keys to a money making kingdom that is… INDOS SIIU.
– Antony Yee