The “Insidious” franchise may be over. If that’s true, it will haunt me for some time.
Before the lack of decent roles for women was on everyone’s tongue, these movies had a strong female heroine — and an older one, at that. Now “Insidious: The Last Key” lets us become even more well-acquainted with the psychic whose troubled past led her to a career in the paranormal.
The fourth installment begins in the childhood home of Elise (Lin Shaye). We see her as a child who can see things that other people can’t. She knows, for example, that there is someone in the laundry room, even though her father “punishes” — this is a mild word — her when she refuses to say she doesn’t see and sense things.
We now know why Elise ran from her wretched childhood, and that she left a brother behind. When she receives a plea for help and hears her old address, she is troubled … and obviously afraid.
Her sidekicks Specs and Tucker (screenwriter Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson, respectively) accompany her to the house, where much of the furniture and even the toys from her childhood remain intact.
The trio finds a horror even Elise never could imagine. And that’s only the beginning of what Elise must confront when she truly begins to be haunted by her past.
Character development is what makes us care about whomever we watch in a film. This movie does an outstanding job of developing not only the character of the lead, but also the people around her. When we see the often-terrible moments from Elise’s girlhood, we admire her strength even more.
As an adult, Shaye gives her character warmth, heart and grief — she still mourns her childhood and feels guilty about leaving some of her family members behind.
The idea of a horror franchise driven by character development is fairly rare and engaging. We jump right along with Elise not only because the scares are well-crafted, which they are, but also because we care about her well-being.
I don’t know whether the screenwriters will achieve this, but I hope that they continue to develop the series with as much heart, intelligence and yes, creepiness as they have thus far.
As for Shaye, she has become a phenomenon after a career that began in 1975 (if you want a chuckle, visit www.imdb.com and see the billing for her first role in “Hester Street.”) Even if this really is the last of the “Insidious” franchise, it’s just the beginning for Shaye: She will appear in at least 11 more movies.
Hurray for “Insidious” … and hurray for Shaye.