The Supernatural Thriller
Cast: Bruce Davison, Leigh Whannell, Lin Shaye, Angus Sampson, Javier Botet
Director: Adam Robitel
Genre: Horror, Mystery
Synopsis: The creative minds behind the hit Insidious trilogy return for Insidious: The Last Key. In the supernatural thriller, which welcomes back franchise standout Lin Shaye as Dr. Elise Rainier, the brilliant parapsychologist faces her most fearsome and personal haunting yet: in her own family home.
Insidious: The Last Key
Release Date: February 8th, 2018
About The Production
Insidious: The Franchise
Dr. Elise Rainier"a brilliant psychic, clairvoyant and demonologist"has spent her life guiding innocents back into the light…and thwarting creatures that have opened unholy doors into eternal darkness. As a child who could communicate with the dead, she accidentally unleashed something unspeakable into our world. We first met Dr. Rainier in 2010's Insidious, when, alongside sidekicks Tucker and Specs, she helps Josh and Renai Lambert draw their son Dalton from the deep recesses of The Further"a nightmarish mirror vision of our existence. There, dark spirits ooze from unspeakable corners and attempt to re-enter our realm by any means necessary. As Elise uses her gifts to free Dalton, the demon that possessed Josh when he was just a boy escapes from The Further and kills Elise. But is she really dead?
In Insidious: Chapter 2 the Lamberts are still reeling from the psychic abduction of their son and the loss of Elise. When they move back into Josh's boyhood home, Josh again becomes possessed by the demon residing in the house and lying in wait. To save his father, Dalton reaches into The Further and finds Elise, who is still alive fighting an eternal battle to free trapped souls, rescue Josh and end the family curse. Elise returns to the land of the living in Insidious: Chapter 3, which takes us back to a time before the Lamberts.
Called out of retirement to help Quinn Brenner, a teen whose attempts to connect with her dead mother go horribly wrong, Elise is reminded of her sworn duty to use her paranormal gifts for the good of mankind.
Insidious: The Last Key takes us with Elise back to her girlhood home. But when the ghastliest haunted house Elise has ever entered proves to be the one where she was raised, Elise must face her greatest fears and destroy the immortal Key Face"the demon she set free so many years before. Vanquish him on his terrain, and she will free trapped souls for good. Fail, and the house she barely escaped as a child will claim her soul for eternity.
Insidious: The Last Key takes us back to the beginnings of the Insidious franchise and to Elise's haunted childhood, where she discovered she had supernatural powers, suffered cruelty at the hand of her father and discovered the place of pure evil known as The Further.
'This is an origin story," says producer Jason Blum. 'It shows how Elise came to be, and how she got her special powers. The first 20 minutes of Insidious: The Last Key take place in 1954, but the rest of the movie takes place right before Insidious starts. So, it's actually Insidious: The Last Key, Insidious: Chapter 3, Insidious and then Insidious: Chapter 2."
The popularity of the franchise always made the possibility of a fourth Insidious film intriguing to Blum, but the decision was also up to creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell. 'How it usually works," Blum offers, 'is that I call Leigh, and say, -We'd love to do another one.' But I don't force people, and I wouldn't want to deal with anyone else unless they blessed it. Leigh had an idea about creating a film around Elise's character for a long time, and we were all very committed to that."
'We've made a lot of scary movies," Blum continues, 'and the hardest thing on a scary movie is for the actor who is communicating to the audience to be believable. No matter how you dress it up, in some way, they're saying, -Ghosts are real. They exist. They're scary.' No matter how good the writing is"God bless Leigh Whannell"it's hard to deliver those lines and believe them. And Lin is incredibly good at saying things that make no sense, and making them feel like they make complete sense."
Lin Shaye was thrilled with the opportunity to play Elise as a badass. 'I'm learning more about Elise through each film," says the actress. 'When we first meet her in Insidious, she's a confident clairvoyant, an empath. She takes on other people's feelings very strongly, which allows her to respond to them deeply. She's a seer with a gift that she didn't ask for, but one that she was born with." 'People were apparently very taken by me as a hero," Shaye adds, 'which was very surprising to me."
'It's been fascinating to watch Lin's evolution as Elise over this series," says Blum. 'We meet Elise as this enigmatic scientist in a complex field…who serves the story as a channel for the Lambert family to reach their son. But as we learn more about her, we see this haunting unfold"one that all plays out in Lin's riveting eyes. In The Last Key, we finally get to witness what created Elise's genius, and how she has been driven for a lifetime to help others"innocents tortured by this unspeakable demon."
The filmmakers well knew the fans of the franchise had grown fond of the characters, which further supported production of another chapter. 'They're attached to Specs and Tucker. They're attached to Elise," says Blum.
'There is a real relationship that has evolved between the audience and the characters in the movie. Leigh understands that what makes a good scary movie is not the scares, but what comes in between them." 'We put a lot of work into the characters, making them worthy of the audience's affection," states Whannell.
'Elise and Specs and Tucker are a family at this stage and you get to see their interplay and you get to really relate to them."
'Leigh and Lin have taken us on a journey with this brilliantly complex parapsychologist who has been running from demons of her own since she was a child," reveals director Adam Robitel. 'Instead of hiding from the world, she has taken this evil by the throat and said, -You will not hurt one more person.' Where so many would think of themselves first, Elise has stood up for innocence and goodness. The fact that we get to follow her back to the place where it all started"and where she was launched into the world of the supernatural"was what drew me to the project in the first place."
Blum and Robitel met during the filming of the Paranormal Activity series. 'We'd worked on a couple of Paranormal Activity movies together, and I liked Adam, and thought he was very talented," Blum recalls. When I saw The Taking of Deborah Logan, which I thought was creepy, good and interesting, we started talking about Insidious. And he said what a huge fan he was of the three movies."
'I've been fortunate enough to work with Jason in multiple capacities for years," says Robitel. 'Since we came in to rewrite Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, we've been discussing opportunities for me to direct. He's been instrumental in guiding my career, and once he connected me with Leigh and Jason for Insidious, it all fell into place. James Wan was also incredibly gracious and supportive of The Taking of Deborah Logan. These guys are mentors to me, and I'm grateful for their guidance and friendship. They are the best-in-class in the world of high concept genre movies."
Whannell, who created Insidious alongside Wan, plays Specs in the series, as well as directed Insidious: Chapter 3. 'Whenever we have an Insidious movie we go to James and Leigh and if they're not available we go out wide," says Blum. 'There's a certain fun to the Insidious films"a wink at the audience. They're really scary, and it's hard to pull off both of those things," the producer adds. 'Leigh writes that so well."
When Insidious: The Last Key opens, Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) has invited her two partners in paranormal investigation, Specs and Tucker (Angus Sampson) to come live with her. Elise is at a good place in her life; things have settled down for her. Specs and Tucker are still running their business, Spectral Sightings, responding with Elise to calls from people experiencing poltergeists or ghosts or hauntings in their homes. The team is waiting for their next job when Elise gets a disturbing phone call from Ted Garza, a man claiming to be having a ghost problem in Five Keys, New Mexico.
Elise freezes; 413 Apple Tree Lane is the address of her childhood home. These are not happy memories. Her father was cruel and abusive to everyone in the family"Elise, her mother, Audrey, and her younger brother, Christian, but mostly to Elise.
She received the brunt of the abuse because Elise saw ghosts, and no one in the family wanted to believe they existed.
'At first, she hangs up on him, and she's very resistant to going back," says Whannell. 'She doesn't want to revisit these terrifying memories of an abusive father." Specs and Tucker pressure her to accept the job. After all, the owner of the house needs help and this is what they do. But Elise knows that going to help Garza will lead her down a dark path she has avoided for years.
'Elise feels obligated to go help this man," offers Blum, 'as well as explain to him what the dire situation is in that house…and what it has long been."
At the end of Insidious: Chapter 3, Elise sees a man standing on the street. She knows he is not human, but the demon that resides in the house on Apple Tree Lane. He has followed her, and to banish him forever she must go back and battle him on home turf. To vanquish him, Elise will also have to battle the demons of her past, hoping to heal wounds that have reopened.
Going back to the house she grew up in meant going back to The Further, a place where pure evil lies in wait for the innocent. 'The Further is a place that spirits are stuck in, it's like purgatory," says Whannell. 'It's the realm of the dead. All of the wounded souls, the people who killed or were killed themselves and all of the tortured souls that haven't quite finished with their business on Earth reside in this realm." 'It's the opposite of light," he continues. 'It's a black hole, a -black void,' as we call it. It can recreate your past, and it doesn't follow rules of time and space."
'I believe we all have a Further. It's the place in your mind you don't want to go," reveals Shaye. 'A place filled with horrible memories that you may have or that you may have even invented. A place you walk through out of your conscious mind into your unconscious. It's the place that you have to go to face your demons."
The trio embark on their journey in the new Spectral Sightings vehicle. 'The Winnebaghost, as Specs likes to call it," says Whannell. 'It's always cool to have these toys. That's what Specs and Tucker are known for"their gadgets and inventions when they're hunting ghosts. I figured if we were going on a road trip, instead of just driving out there in the same old van we've seen in the other movies, we should buy a Winnebago and do it up."
'What I love about Specs and Tucker," states Robitel, 'is that they serve as the audience's proxy in these films and provide a much needed comic relief from the tension. Whenever Elise slips into The Further to save one of the people who desperately needs her help, the guys are basically saying, -Holy shit. We can't believe that this is going on, but it's our job to protect our friend from any harm that might come to her.' In The Last Key they've formed this awkward family unit and are feeling the growing pains of Specs and Tucker having moved in; they're not exactly tidy. Though they cramp her style and perhaps Elise cramps theirs, they are indeed a family unit and its something Elise comes to really appreciate after all the drama."
As the Winnebaghost pulls up in front of Elise's childhood home, she is unnerved seeing her house for the first time in so many years. It's frozen in time"and still has the marks of the handprints on the wall where Elise was beaten…as well as the chair where her father sat. Elise feels her hatred of him and fear of her past well up inside her.
'Elise swore to herself she would never go back, because that was the house where her mother was murdered, where she accidentally let a demon into the house and where her father beat her," says Shaye.
'She's also convinced that the demon that's been haunting her has come to visit Elise in her own home."
'It was vital to connect the oppressive prison visually to the property," says Robitel. 'I sent Jamison Goei, our visual effects guru, to the Eastern State Penitentiary, a two hundred-year-old gothic monstrosity of a prison in Pennsylvania. You can't live near something that exudes that much psychic pain and not pick up on the bad vibes. Could you imagine how it would make young Elise feel?"
'The idea of locks and keys as a visual motif came directly out of the amazing early drafts I read of Leigh's," Robitel continues. 'Everything informed this idea of Elise and Christian as prisoners in their own home. Of being prisoners to their pasts.
To create a sense of danger and foreboding, Robitel and production designer Melanie Jones used a gritty, dirty style that reflected the negativity emanating from the house. 'I wanted to create an environment you could smell," says Jones. 'We're taking Elise's story back to the beginning and to an event that's traumatic for her. It starts in period, in 1954, and it has guided her whole life, gifts and hardships."
'The story takes place in New Mexico," Jones continues, 'and as we were scouting we found a house in Los Angeles in the midst of an oil field"where the terrain is very dry. There's this destitution and this hard environment, metal oil rigs and dead plants. It paints this very stark picture of her childhood, in a home that is adjacent to this prison."
There is no doubt that the house is haunted. 'We have a tradition of doing that in the Insidious movies," provides Whannell. 'We've shot in haunted hospitals. We've shot in houses that are supposedly haunted, and this house had a vibe to it. First of all, it was filled with actual bats. You would be sitting there, and a bat would fly past. I remember going into one of the rooms, the entire crew was standing around chatting; it felt very safe. I wandered off on my own and walked into this room that was empty; I just felt this chill. It's never happened before on an Insidious film."
The filmmakers agree that the Insidious: The Last Key was more ambitious than the previous films in expanding the production values. 'As the camera cranes up to reveal these oil fields and a prison in the background and this old house," says Whannell. 'I thought, -Wow, that's a cinematic scope that we haven't had in the Insidious films before. They've been quite claustrophobic up until now."
As Specs and Tucker begin to lay out their ghost-catching equipment, Elise walks through to the laundry room, where she stops. Born with the gift of psychic powers, it was Elise's ability to see and experience things that no one else could see that was the catalyst for her father's abusive treatment.
It was during the Cold War, and the regular person felt real terror about nuclear war, not ghosts or apparitions.
'He did not like her psychic abilities," advises Whannell. 'He either didn't believe them or didn't want to hear about them, wanted to shut them out. So, he was brutal in his punishment of her whenever she said she had seen a ghost."
In flashbacks, Insidious: The Last Key takes the audience back into Elise's dark past where her father would suddenly turn into a monster. Elise suffers at the hands of her father and witnesses the murder of her mother. Eerily, much of the terror takes place in the basement. Jones created an eerie entrance to the basement from a hatch in the floor of the laundry room, almost hidden from view.
'The fallout shelter looks like a part of a wall that's an add-on to the house," says Jones. 'It has exposed wood and goes down these creepy stairs. Suddenly, you're in a little anteroom, which would be almost like a basement. Then it opens up into a fallout shelter." At the far end is a locked red door. Creating the look of The Further for Insidious: The Last Key was influenced by the storyline which brings the characters into the old prison next door. 'We have the same basic tenet and tried to adhere to what had been established before," she offers. 'But we do have another additional theme, based on the red door that's in the other movies, we pulled red in. Pops of red now are in The Further outside of just the door.
'I wanted to give The Further more shape," explains Robitel, 'and that really cool shot when we pan off Elise to reveal an endless row of prison cells was a plate developed and inspired by the colonnade at Eastern State Penitentiary."
'You could imagine if that was in The Further…what kind of awful, haunted, tortured souls would be stuck there," says Jones. 'With the texture on the wall, the peeling paint, the green theme through the whole movie gives this sickly sense to things NOT being well."
The whistle was another symbolic story and production element. 'It is a gift that Elise's mother, Audrey, gave to Christian when he was a young boy," says Whannell. 'If he ever felt scared he could use the whistle. It's symbolic of being able to call home and call out to people we've lost"when someone's passed on that doesn't mean they're not in your life anymore. Somehow, somewhere they're hearing what you're saying."
What is known only to Elise is there is another reason she has come home to face her past. It was she who unlocked the original demon and set him free. 'When we meet the modern-day Elise in this film, we know we're meeting a fractured woman," Whannell continues. 'This film deals with a lot more than just a straightforward haunting."
Enter the master of all demons, who has been pulling the puppet strings of the others for so many millennia. 'The villain in Insidious: The Last Key is Key Face," explains Blum, 'who has skeleton keys for fingers and uses those skeleton keys to kill people."
'There's a lot of symbolism with this particular demon," says Whannell. 'The town that Elise grew up in in New Mexico is called Five Keys. She also grew up on the grounds of a prison. Her father was the assistant warden. All these things that Elise has locked away, this demon has the power to lock and unlock. By confronting this demon, Elise confronts her own past and her own locked doors"the things she's shut out of her life."
'The idea for Key Face was born out of early designs I did with artist Jacob Hair," explains Robitel. 'I knew I wanted something as iconic as the Lipstick Demon or The Man Who Can't Breathe. Using the idea of keys as a jumping off point, I pitched a maw-like wound in the mouth, that if you looked closely, resembled a Key Hole.
From there, we started playing around with this idea of keys for fingers. We went through dozens of iterations until landing on one that was included in my presentation to Blum and was further refined by the Fractured concept team."
'He's an absolutely terrifying demon," Whannell agrees. 'They've gone all out to give us our most unique looking demon yet."
The actor who plays Key Face, Javier Botet, is not only extraordinarily tall but double-jointed, which allows him to move in an unusual and terrifying way. 'Javier is first of all one of the most beautiful men," says Shaye of the beloved movement artist. 'He's by far the scariest demon of all the demons. The Red-Face demon was so good, but this is a creature who can make you not breathe!"
Part of Elise's reconciliation with her past involves reconnecting with her brother, Christian, (Bruce Davison) who she has not seen or spoken to since their childhood. When Elise had an opportunity to escape from her father, she ran away, leaving her young brother behind. 'He doesn't forgive her for running away," explains Whannell. 'Christian's got wounds just like Elise, and he's sadly gotten used to living without her."
Another reason Christian has been willing to leave Elise behind is that he has two daughters, Imogen (Caitlin Gerard) and Melissa (Spencer Locke). He has never wanted them to know about their abusive grandfather. He wanted to protect them from his own past, and has never introduced them to Elise. In fact, Elise never even knew she had two nieces.
But the psychic powers deep within the family have been passed on to Imogen. It creates a bond between Elise and her niece, and Elise realizes she needs Imogen's help so their family may escape the demon for good. 'For the first time in any of the Insidious films you get to see another member of Elise's family travel into The Further," says Whannell.
As she descends into the basement to look for the demon haunting the home's current occupant, Garza, Elise discovers another entity living in the house, someone she saw when she was a child. She reconnects with Anna (played by Aleque Reid). 'She's a friendly ghost," says Shaye, 'who I used to see her in the laundry room." But when she would try to introduce Anna to her little brother, he couldn't see her and was absolutely afraid. 'Anna is a lost spirit trapped in The Further," adds Whannell, 'and she tries to help Elise, Specs and Tucker as much as she can. It's this cyclical violence that's happening throughout generations that Anna helps cut through and solve."
Elise learns that Key Face has the ability to turn people evil. She realizes for the first time that her father was not responsible for his behavior, that Key Face had gotten to him and possessed him"making him behave in horrific ways. It happened to Garza, too, as Key Face used Garza's fear and trapped his soul. Both Ted Garza and Elise's father are victims to the same demon, Key Face. On Key Face, Whannell said, 'He manipulated them and has driven them insane; he forces them to do his bidding while they're alive. He feeds on misery and hate, which is why keeping that hate going within that house is important to him. That's nourishment to Key Face."
'Where can I even begin with Lin?" raves Robitel. 'Here is this extraordinarily layered actress who can emote volumes for Elise without ever speaking a word. It's absolutely wild how talented she is. The Insidious series was built around her, and with good reason. She also happens to be a long-time personal friend of mine, a nurturing loving person, and it was a dream to work with her in this capacity."
'Lin is stunning, reflective, powerful and deeply raw in her performance," continues the director. 'She takes us on this journey that is equal parts saving lost souls and sending evil back to the hell it came from. To a person, the cast and crew adore her. She's a deeply talented teacher and lifelong student. All this, and she gets to become an action hero. Lin is a machine, and I stand in awe of her."
'Insidious: The Last Key is a more important movie than just a genre film," says Shaye. 'It provokes you to confront your own demons. It tackles huge ideas of abuse, and forgiveness, and finding forgiveness in yourself, and re-embracing family and how important family is. It's the most exciting thing I've ever done as an actress, bar none."
'Elise has had loss in her life, but she's still a heroine," Shaye concludes. 'Those are major, wonderful qualities for anybody to play as a character. Those became qualities that people started to identify with Elise. It is wonderful that at this point in my career, I feel limitless."
Whannell and Blum were thrilled with Robitel's contributions to the franchise as director of Insidious: The Last Key. 'This is Adam's first film with major set pieces, prominent actors and crews," commends Whannell, 'and he's just done a fantastic job. He doesn't lose his cool. I don't think it's a secret that a lot of directors on sets are yelling and screaming and losing their temper, and a film set can be stressful. Adam doesn't do that. He keeps it fun and is very reverent of the Insidious world."
'We feel that it is a hallmark of Blumhouse to grow our talent," notes Blum. 'Adam has a striking ability to balance shuddering fear with deeply intimate storytelling. He cares about these characters as much as we do, and he trusts his team to raise his abilities. Plus, he was an absolute joy to work with." 'There's a certain fun to the Insidious films"a wink at the audience. They're really scary, and it's hard to pull off both of those things," adds the producer. 'Leigh writes that so well."
Whannell welcomed Robitel's contribution to character development and the progression of the plot. 'He didn't want it to be just a retread of the other Insidious movies," Whannell says. 'He's pulled that off. This film is much bigger in scope than the other Insidious movies."
'As the narrative architect of the series, Leigh has crafted such a phenomenal world for Insidious," says Robitel.
'He knows exactly where each character has gone and where he or she is headed. This is a massively complex puzzle piece that he makes feel seamless for the audience. Plus, he gets to play in the world he helped to create! As someone who has lived and breathed this world, how incredible is that?"
'Adam is a wonderful director, friend, human being, visionary in his own way," raves Shaye. 'He brings an excitement and an energy to the film. There are aspects of the characters that come through all of us witnessing our own demons. He's re-stimulating all of us to go deeper, to go a bit different. He has done a wonderful job, and we all love him to pieces."
The director was thrilled to work with such an experienced and accomplished team. 'From our producers, Oren and James, to our amazingly talented costumer, production designer, cinematographer, editor and composer…the names are too many to thank," ends Robitel. 'It's been incredible how many people have given their time, energy and talents to making The Last Key a terrifying and fulfilling entry into a series that so many people care about. I'm thrilled to be a part of it."
Insidious: The Last Key
Release Date: February 8th, 2018