The 'Insidious' franchise continues with 'The Last Key' - per se. The film is a prequel in which demonologist Elise Rainier is front and center. She is the force behind the demonic investigations in the previous chapters and now audiences will get a full scope of her character. The film loops back to 'Insidious 2' at some point but it is an entirely new plot.
Director Adam Robitel executes an interesting approach to the story. Elise's investigative allure is documented in the film so at times there is a sense of TV's 'Ghost Hunters' - whether or not this is on purpose - it definitely helps placing the film in 2010. All of it makes sense since Robitel sat at the helm of 'Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension'. That being said, it is Leigh Whannell's script that anchors the entire movie with Elise's background story. It is rich with character development, adding thrills and horror moments that are significant within the franchise.
The story starts with a young Elise becoming aware of her gift while growing up in a small town in New Mexico. She is not terrified of ghosts but her family does not fully understand it. Her mother is more akin than her father - who punishes her for it. Sixteen years later, Elise is brought back to the house - not a home as she puts it - to confront her past and the demon in it. In the process, she not only finds reassurance of her gift but confronts a deep and dark secret that marked her forever and that propels the series’ plotline.
Whannell and Robitel are a well-mesh machine heightening the dramatic and thrilling tones of the story. It is hard not to feel and root for Elise's character after discovering her violent upbringing. Of course, this is enhanced with Lin Shaye's performance who revels in the character - who is a fan favorite of the franchise and the genre too (Elise had a cameo in 'Ouija: The Origin of Evil'). 'Insidious: The Last Key' is more dramatic than the previous chapters, and yet continues the same formula: a family in danger. This time is Elise's family that is being used to lure her back and deeper into the Further. The demon is more dangerous this time around too. It uses psychological terror and Elise's gift to reel her closer to an uncertain end. That family angle serves to introduce new characters too which may continue the story into a new vision.
'Insidious: The Last Key' is a nicely crafted supernatural horror flick. It certainly has the elements of the franchise with its dark corners and spine-chilling moments. The dramatic background on Elise anchors the film throughout. The box office numbers will reveal if using the series' beloved character will pay off though. If anything the audacious move also throws the story in a different direction. And this might prove successful to Whannel and company.