By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
The Insidious series is one of those guilty pleasures where I hope some answers are given about Darth Maul — er, The Red Faced Demon. The previous films, which I had to see again before penning this article, and the latest, The Last Key, do not necessarily follow in a logical order. This franchise is taking just as long as the Paranormal Activity series to offer answers. I fear I will have a complete head of gray hair by the time any will be offered.
All we get with this latest work is that it looks at the life of Elise before she became a full time paranormal investigator, and everything that has plagued her life, before taking on the case presented from the first film.
This prequel has its moments, and actually has one great jump scare which caused me to gasp. I often wondered if I could ever get that reaction with any horror movie, and this film actually delivered. It’s very rare for me to get startled. Also, Specs and Tucker (Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson) are hilarious as always. This movie’s saving grace is with how well-developed the character of Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) is. She defines and saves this franchise from mediocrity.
Whannell is also this series lead and co-writer. He develops what goes on in the Astral Realm known as The Further in baby steps and the details which matter is nothing new to those who study the occult. In what goes on there are darker reflections in what goes on in the mortal world. Rainier has skeletons in the closet and I am not surprised at the visions she sees in this other world. When she’s called to investigate her childhood home, all those memories are going to surface in some horrible way. To watch her deal with, bury the past and deal with her demons makes this fourth film better than the previous. Her resolve is being nicely developed.
The only real problem with the Insidious series is in how many times can the producers play with a familiar plot and Astral Projection? The first two movies were about a boy who was not in control, and Rainier had to save him from this dream world. The gallery of nightmarish creatures — the “Red-Faced Demon,” “Bride in Black,” “Man Who Cannot Breathe,” and a “Keyface” — may well be all working together. I’m wondering if they are some kind of Legion of Doom. They desire hate and fear to feast upon. The feeling of how to bring the films together as a whole is not quite there.
I am guessing Whannell is trying to avoid copying H.P. Lovecraft and his seminal works involving the seminal dreamer Randolph Carter. This character has the gift of prophecy; Rainier’s gift is to communicate with spirits. However, both were both once reluctant to use it for fear of ridicule. They both eventually embrace using it, but at a cost of the ‘torment’ which can follow them.
Thankfully, The Further is simply a dark place which has no shape or civilization. This fourth film reinforces this point, and adds a bit of colour to the mix with many red doors. Each act as a portal to separate fears. Just how it leads up to the first two films is teased at. The boy is quickly seen behind one. The version of Elise in Insidious 1 & 2 shows that she is finally in control. She defeats The Bride in Black in the second film at a cost of her own mortal life. She exists as a spirit and will remain with Specs and Tucker to fight those entities. As for what is to happen next, following the events of the second film, where she died, will depend on how long this franchise will build up to revealing that entity is she gasped at. That reaction was one of familiarity!
3 Stars out of 5