Now that the “Insidious” series has dropped its “chapter” moniker, it’s becoming difficult to remember which episode you are watching. But with a timeline more jumbled than the “Fast & the Furious”, even the Chapters weren’t much help. To be clear, this is the fourth movie in the series, but takes place both first and third in sequence, bookending Chapter 3.
“The Final Key” occurs mostly in the year 2010, as Elise Rainier(Lin Shaye) is summoned back to her childhood home in an attempt to help the current owner rid it of evil spirits. Through a series of flashbacks to 1953, we see all manner of darkness that Elise endured in her youth. As if growing up with her spiritual “gift” wasn’t difficult enough, their home was situated just downhill of the state penitentiary. Even more ominous, everytime someone on death row was executed, the lights would dim, and young Elise knew more details of the expired killers than should be possible. In addition, both ghosts and demons seemed to enjoy spending time at her home. The only thing that could make her life any more difficult is if she had an abusive father…
The events of her youth become so traumatic that we eventually stop feeling pity for her and instead wonder in awe how she grew to be a rather well-adjusted adult! This is no time for psychological musings, however. There is a lot of ground to cover in under 2 hours, including family reunions, multiple deaths, a few cases of mistaken phantoms, and plenty of things that go bump in the night. Unfortunately, the script is so completely devoid of logic that it barely makes sense at all. The character interactions in the daylight are awkward at best, and the humor has only a 50% hit ratio. It’s odd how the same characters can deliver chuckle-worthy zingers one minute and eye-rolling groaners the very next.
What the movie does excel in are the jumpscares. It’s practically a masterclass in startling your audience using various cinematic devices. The use of a whistle, a key ring that’s not what it seems, a string of an old discarded item of clothing, and the list goes on. Even a particular character’s obsession with light sources is brilliant. Anyone probing around creepy locations knows to bring multiple sources of light, but in the cinematic world, they exist mostly to provide a false sense of security. The director (Adam Robitel) knows modern audiences are becoming wise-to-the-ways of jump scares and a scene late in the film plays off from this. Like the audience, the character in peril knows something is gonna pop up at any second. But in their position of vulnerability, exactly when and how is unknown. They proceed in their actions akin to slowly turning the crank of a sadistic jack-in-the-box. It’s a shame these bright moments of darkness don’t have a better script to lean against. Even the demon itself, which has some fascinating abilities is given an inglorious heave-ho by a (literal?) deus ex machina.
If you are looking for cheap thrills and spectral startles, then “The Final Key” may be right up your alley. But if you require more substance to your apparitions you may be left feeling dead inside.