Insidious: The Last Key unlocks old nightmares

The thriller also stars Caitlin Gerard as Imogen Rainier.

Insidious: The Last Key unlocks old nightmares

Raymond Lo (The Philippine Star) - December 23, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — It’s been over a year when this writer, along with a select few, was invited to the set of Insidious: The Last Key, the fourth installment in the blockbuster supernatural horror franchise, in an abandoned university campus outside Los Angeles. During our visit, we met and chatted with the film’s youthful director Adam Robitel and returning star Lin Shaye, who reprises her role as Elise Reiner; Angus Sampson and Leigh Whannell also returns as Tucker and Specs.

The movie is a direct sequel of sorts to the in-story chronology that started with the series’ third installment Insidious: Chapter 3, which came out in 2015, and goes into Elise’s past in 1953. “We open the film in 1953 with Elise as a nine-year-old girl and you get to see the house she grew up in. Her father was an assistant warden,” teased Leigh who added that loyal followers of the series would get to glimpse the abusive and traumatic household that she grew up in.

To the uninitiated, Elise is the main protagonist of the series. She was introduced as a friend of mother of a couple whose son, Dalton, was being possessed by demons and brought to a hellish realm known as The Further. It was revealed that Elise has previously helped Dalton’s dad, Josh, escape from The Further only to be haunted herself by the demons she vanquished. She dies in the first movie and the follow-up films function as prequels and take the audience to her life prior to her encounter with Josh and the formation of the ghost-hunting team with Tucker and Specs. 

Insidious: The Last Key will feature Elise once more and will focus on her childhood and her early encounters with the demons that have tormented her all her life. And if in previous films she goes to other people’s haunted houses, this chapter will show her battling demons in her own house. “The case of this movie is that it’s a haunted house but the haunted house is her house, her childhood home,” Leigh added. “She’s basically dealing with a literal demon and a metaphorical demon.”

Leigh wrote all four Insidious movies. He directed the third film while James Wan, a little-known director, directed the first two films. This writer inserted humor there if you did not notice it. James, of course, built his blockbuster career with some of cinema’s modern horror classics such as this series, the violent Saw films and The Conjuring before directing the mega-hit Furious 7 and taking on DC’s next tentpole Aquaman.

“When we would sit around, mostly we wouldn’t talk about horror movies, we would talk about real-life ghost stories,” Leigh said recalling the early days with James back in Australia where they both grew up. “He had a ton from his family and we would just collect them and so the first Insidious film, a lot of the scares in the film are actually taken from stories we’ve heard from friends of ours or relatives.”

Apart from the scary supernatural world he created in the Insidious series, Leigh also wrote the first three of the Saw films so, naturally, we had to ask him of his state of mind, playfully, of course. He laughed.

Insidious: The Last Key will feature Elise, portrayed by Lin Shaye, once more and will focus on her childhood and early encounters with the demons that have tormented her all her life.

“I wrote three Saw movies and after the third one, I felt like I had nothing left to give to the films. I felt like I couldn’t think of any more jigsaw contraptions,” he replied. “With this one, I’ve done one more. It is tough to keep coming up with new scare ideas. There’s only so many ways to skin a cat in the haunted house genre and I found that this one was tough because I tried to not repeat myself. I want the scares to be different from the last film and offer something different.” 

The focus on Elise in the third and the upcoming installments was a natural story progression to bring the genre back to its home, so to speak.

“It was about time to really focus on her,” he declared. In the first two movies, Elise was a supporting character to Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson’s characters who played the Lambert couple whose son Dalton was being possessed by demons. By the third film, Elise’s personal story started getting told. “I think she’s a character that audiences love. Whenever we get feedback from audiences about the Insidious movies, they always love Elise and she’s interesting!”

“I think it is interesting to have someone like Lin be the lead character in a film like this,” Leigh proudly added. “She’s like the action hero. She’s the Jason Bourne of these films and she’s a rich character to be mined. Delving into her past and finding out who she is gives you a lot of meat.”

Lin is a veteran film, theater and TV actress and is regarded by many as a scream queen due to her roles in various horror movies including the classic A Nightmare on Elm Street, Amityville: A New Generation, Ouija and its prequel Ouija: Origin of Evil. She has been acting for many, many years now and it is quite refreshing to see a character actor like herself get her own starring role in a genre that has defined most of her career. This writer has a separate interview with Lin. Please watch for it. 

Leigh is handing the directing duties to Adam Robitel, who is a veteran himself of horror movies having previously directed 2014’s The Taking of Deborah Logan and co-writing Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension.

“I’ve been a fan of James and Leigh forever,” Adam remarked after being asked if he felt any pressure taking on the reins of the Insidious franchise from the prolific duo. “I have known James for a long time and he’s always been a real confidante and a friend and I saw an early cut of Insidious at AFI or LA Film School. I am also friendly with Lin Shaye, we did a couple of movies together. So I knew them.”

“I am so in awe of James and Leigh. It’s a lot of self-pressure because I consider James to be a master of modern horror so it’s like playing a game of horse with Michael Jordan. It’s a tall order in that sense but at the same time you want to bring new things to the equation and that’s what I hopefully do.” 

We assured Adam that he did deliver based on what we observed on the set and the scene they shot on the day we visited (which this writer can’t describe or it will spoil the experience for you.) However, this writer can reveal that when we dined together with the cast, there was an evil-looking man who you wouldn’t be stuck with in a room, even if you knew that he was just a made-up actor. He was quite scary, even in daytime, even if he was munching on a regular burger, ketchup and all.

Insidious: The Last Key is released by Sony Pictures in the Philippines and opens nationwide on Jan. 17, 2018.

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