Just a quick announcement, I’ll be reviewing this film as a regular review on my podcast, and putting out a summary episode in two weeks, so I can do some research and get my thoughts together.
Synopsis: We find out more about Elise’s childhood, about her asshole abusive father, the death of her mother, and a brother she ditched when she was 16. This is all important because the case she then takes on is at this old house. She has to fight yet another demon, this time one with keys on his fingers that can lock and unlock people’s organs or something. Basically, it reverts back into “someone has to go save someone else in The Further” and involves a bit more about Elise, except this time, she’s wearing a really bad wig.
The only expression that sums up this film properly is “oof.” It’s a very slow, very dark film that takes “I’ve hit a writer’s block” to a whole new level. This is possibly the second worst film of the series. We still never find out what happens to that family with the girl in a wheelchair, the freaking Lipstick Faced demon makes ANOTHER appearance, and the dog still doesn’t die.
This movie is a prequel and a sequel. We find out what Elise’s childhood was like and then jump into the world of Insidious after the third movie and right before the first. I love that it comes full circle, but to me, it’s more of an octagon.
So in this film we start off with Elise and her younger brother living in a house controlled by her prison guard father. At least, that’s what I assume he does. There’s mention of electric chairs, a uniform at one point, and a lot of thicc keys on a thicc ring.
At one point, her younger brother is given this whistle by their mother. Throughout the film it acts as some kind of “call for help when you’re scared” motif, but is also used by a lot of the spirits as the movie goes on and 100% by the end of the movie someone has ghost herpes. I’ll be bringing this up later, I just wanted to mention it now because I don’t know where else to mention it.
Her family dynamic is all kinds of messed up, and to make matters worse, it changes as the film progresses, but we’ll get to that later.
So, Elise is basically beaten as a child because her dad doesn’t believe she can see ghosts. Meanwhile her father is chaining up women in the house’s basement without telling anyone and I guess the demon in the film is feeding off of that? I don’t know, I don’t think we ever find out why he’s chaining women up in the first place. If he was possessed, he could be doing a lot worse to his medium daughter than beating her with a stick.
So Elise is beaten and trapped in the basement, while she’s down there, a mysterious voice that sounds like a child asks her to open a door made out of the wall.
She does so and goes into some kind of trance, where I guess she’s in The Further. Her mother, hearing some strange noises goes to investigate and whatever Elise let out of the door attacks her mother and kills her. It’s all very tragic.
But anyway, we skip ahead a few decades when Elise wakes up from this flashback to be the 70 something hardened medium we know and love. She’s let Specs and Tucker live in her home with her, and of course, her dog Warren. Mind you, I still thought this dog was going to die at some point during this film, but it doesn’t happen, so I’m left to wonder who she got to dogsit throughout the first two films and how horrible that had to have gone for him to vanish between then and when the boys go back to her house in movie 2 to investigate her medium studio. But that’s neither here nor there.
Elise gets a call that someone needs her help with a paranormal entity at her old house. She initially tells the guy she can’t help him, sleeps on it, decides to go anyway, and we never see her update the guy on whether or not she’s coming and are therefore left to assume she said she can’t help, but showed up anyway.
When she makes it into town, there is a very strange scene in which Elise, Specs, and Tucker go to eat at a diner. While there, they all bump into these two girls Elise is drawn to immediately. She just goes right up to them and says “hi, you kinda look familiar.” Flanking her within seconds, the literal men give these girls a once over and start trying to impress them. It’s hard to say how old these girls are or are supposed to be, but matters are made worse when their father arrives. Not only does this white-haired old man turn out to be Elise’s brother Christian, but this then makes their ages even more ambiguous. Are they kids he had when he was older? Or are they a couple of 16 year olds playing 20 somethings?
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with age gaps, you do you. BUT this strikes me as odd in this film because they never strictly state what age these girls are. For all we know, they’re high schoolers. That then teeters dangerously close to pedophilia and that, I’m not okay with.
You might think the realization that these girls are Elise’s nieces (something never actually said in the movie probably because it’s hilarious) might make Specs and Tucker back off a bit? Well, you’d be wrong, and as a matter of fact, Specs ends up making out with one of them by the end of the film. This might not have been so weird if we already didn’t know that Leigh Whannell, i.e. the guy who plays Specs, wrote this movie.
Christian is essentially pissed that Elise is back in town because, as a child, Elise ran away from home after getting fed up with the abuse she received from her father. Thing is, she didn’t take her brother with her and let him in a haunted house with an abusive father that chains women up in their basement. I would be pretty pissed too.
So back to the story, the new homeowner of Elise’s childhood house is this guy who lives alone and thought it would be totally fine to just use all of the furnishings the inhabitants before him had instead of buying his own damn furniture. This, of course, means the house looks exactly the same and Elise is #triggered.
I’m not kidding when I tell you this entire movie had to have happened in less than one day. It’s so drawn out and filled with flashbacks, you almost don’t realize how slowly it’s moving. Her brother’s whistle is really the only thing that moves the plot along. She goes into her old bedroom, the most active room in the house according to the new owner. She finds the whistle and holds onto it. As she moves through the rest of the house, a ghost woman steals the whistle and says “help her” into Elise’s ear. She has no idea what this means, but recognizes the woman from this one time she saw her standing in the family laundry room. The scene continues to show us that, rather than pretend the woman doesn’t exist to save herself another beating, she tells her father she’s there. This becomes important later, but we’ll get to that.
Elise walks around the house in very dark lighting that barely shows more than her cheekbones and bad wig, breathing heavily and shining a small flashlight around the house. In a strange scene in which the sound is altered to make it seem as if Tucker’s equipment is picking up ghostly noises, they make their way to the basement.
They hear whistling from behind the wall Elise now knows is actually a door. When they enter, they find a woman acting very strangely. I assume this was to make us believe she was some kind of spirit, but she turns out to be real. From the doorway, the new homeowner appears with a gun and asks why the paranormal investigators he called are down in the basement, a notoriously haunted place in literally every house.
They kinda don’t know what to say besides “hey bro, chaining up women in your basement is super not cool, please don’t kill us,” so he goes upstairs to try and shoot Specs. I know, I don’t know, just go with it.
At this point, the film becomes an action thriller with some madman chasing a nerdy dude around a haunted house with a gun. It ends with the homeowner getting decapitated by a dresser, at least I think it was a dresser, this movie is dark AF.
And thus the reign of a series that doesn’t rely on gore and violence to get their point across is tarnished. It was cheesy, oddly timed, and probably not actually plausible.
After the entire house becomes a murder scene, Christian and his daughters tear down the crime scene tape and rifle through boxes looking for his whistle. We aren’t sure why he suddenly got the urge to look for the thing, but that’s neither here nor there because this scene only exists to put one of the girls in peril and set the second half of the film up to be an exact replica of the plot we know and love; someone going into The Further to rescue someone’s spirit and bring it back to their body. Yeah, I’m serious.
In a scene where one of the girls, Melissa, is looking for her father’s whistle in the creepy ass basement, she is frightened and falls to the ground. While not paralyzed, as later evidenced in the hospital, lighting shows us her heaving chest for a solid two minutes in a scene that’s so dark any suspense the film is trying to create with the shifting figure in the background is lost. It’s awkward, to say the least. Things become more confusing when the demon with finger keys that Elise let out into the world as a child in that same basement, straddles Melissa and sticks one of it’s key fingers into her throat. Her…voice box is turned off? And she stops screaming. It then reaches further down, slices a hole in her chest above her heart, and digs a key in there too, I guess locking her heart? It’s literally never explained, but the thing all the trailers for this movie uses to make it seem scary.
She ends up in the hospital, and as her sister is being dragged away in an ambulance, the other niece, Imogen approaches Elise and tells her she can see things too.
Elise then goes back into the house to try and get to the bottom of what happened to her niece, Melissa and is compelled to check out an air duct/sewer thing. I mean, the tunnel that leads into the house has a fan on it, but while Elise is investigating, she hears water dropping like it’s a sewer or cave. Either way, she finds these suitcases that I suppose her father hid here.
Not only should he have burned these instead of keeping them in the house, but he also, for some reason, took the skulls from the girls he killed and kept them in their respective suitcases. Yes, I can see how this could be considered trophies and stuff, but it’s still a lot of work to get skulls from dead bodies, that’s not exactly something you can do when you live in a house with your family. Don’t ask me how I know that.
The jump scare in this scene is comprised of Mr. Key Fingers reaching up through a suitcase and knocking Elise’s soul into The Further to be tormented, I guess.
Of course, because Specs and Tucker don’t know what to do, Imogen offers to, get this, go into The Further to save her.
A totally new concept, never thought of before, genius, right? Yeah.
So Imogen goes in, grabs Elise and her sister, and in another ass whoopin’ Elise delivers to this key finger demon, they all make it out alive. In the end Elise and Christian make up and we see Elise having a nightmare about the Lipstick Faced Demon do his face-popping-out-of-dark-corners jump scare, Lorraine call Elise to come investigate the Lambert case from the first film, and everything comes full circle.
One thing that made me the most upset was how Elise’s character changed in this film. It was directed by someone else, though still written by Leigh Whannell, however, the way she was portrayed was as this timid, frightened old woman going through something traumatic. In reality, she’s a badass motherfucker that didn’t let the death of her husband affect her to the point of suicide. Where is the Elise from the third movie? Why can’t that have been the personality she stuck with? I need my strong female lead! Not 40 year olds making out with teenagers and weird comedic breaks!?
Also, the way this movie deals with trauma makes me very upset. Elise and Christian went through SO much as kids, she literally left him to deal with their abusive father, a haunted house, and a life without a caring mother. It’s a miracle he was well enough in the head to have kids of his own. In the end, they just make up like it was nothing and forgive each other. I’m sorry, but there’s no way that was possible without therapy. A LOT of therapy. When Elise is in The Further, there’s this part where she’s given the chance to beat her father like he beat her. The *real* Elise would never had succumbed to dirty demon tricks like that, but the Elise in this film did. She beat him and shrieked, only then to face the demon and say “you won’t get the satisfaction of my anger. Starve for all I care.” That made no sense. What made even less sense, however, was what happened after this. Elise is facing Mr. Key Fingers, he goes to attack her with his stabby stabby key fingers when her father jumps right in front of her. As he falls to the ground, you hear him say “I’m sorry” before he fades into nothingness.
EXCUSE ME!? How dare you just go and make every bad thing he did completely irrelevant. You can’t make this asshole a hero no matter how hard you try, people. It’s going to take a lot of mental help and therapy for this family to actually get over anything that’s happened. They had a fucked up childhood and no one is talking about it.
I really didn’t like this movie. Nothing really happened, and we never really get any kind of clarification on what the deal with the demon was. Was he someone who lived in that house and locked up women in the basement? Was he so evil the man of the house was destined to do so because the demon’s power was so strong?
I just don’t know what to do about this one. It seems like a loose attempt to make three movies into one. Something that gives us more of Elise’s background, a classic thrilling horror movie, and a film that connects the entire series together. Ugh.
Year Released/Director: 2018, Adam Robitel (The Taking of Deborah Logan, Escape Room)
Favorite Death: There was a handful of deaths in this film, most of which are comprised of the girls that were chained up, but the only one to note was when the new homeowner (who’s name I don’t care enough about to remember) gets his head smushed by a large piece of furniture. I wouldn’t call it my favorite.
Funniest Part: After the death of the new homeowner, our ragtag group is called into questioning at the local police station by, I believe, the first black person we see in the entire series. As Elise is being questioned, she sees a young woman, pained, creepy, and screaming behind the detective. He asks her what’s wrong and she replies with “Oh nothing, I’m just seeing things” completely ignoring the fact that she’s being questioned about a murder and finding a girl tied up in this dude’s basement. What makes it all better is that the detective is all like “Oh, my bad, have a nice day,” a just lets her leave!
What they did right: Trying not to focus on negatives here is difficult, there’s a lot this movie did wrong. I suppose I can say that the child actors they chose for the film were exceptional. Even the kid that played Christian as a kid was good. The little girl that played Elise had to have tapped into something terrible to cry on screen like she did. All of them were fantastic.
Thoughts from Interviews:
In this interview Leigh and Lin sit down to discuss the film. When asked about what it felt like to get more of Elise’s background, Lin replied that she didn’t know what her background was before this film. That, to me, could explain why she was such a different character in this movie. Rather than the kick-ass Elise we saw in the last film, this Elise was experiencing childhood traumas she hasn’t known about for the entire series. I don’t know a lot about writing movies, and I understand that this film was never supposed to have a sequel, let alone a prequel and two sequels, so I can’t say what Leigh should or should not have done with the writing. However, it was very clear after the second film that people wanted more and at that point, he had to have had some kind of inkling he would be bringing the series back to the beginning. That being said, I think it would have made a lot more sense for the fourth and third movies to have switched. In this film it kinda seems like Elise has reverted back to being a scared 6 year old hiding her abilities from an abusive father. In the third, she’s dealing with Parker taking over her will to wander around The Further, something she could have used her past trauma to overcome and therefore become a stronger character. She’s sure of herself in the first film as well, so the fourth one doesn’t make that much sense in context.
Lin goes on to say she had to make up her own background and assumed she was a loner, an only child, and someone who had to fend for herself.
In the second half of this interview, with director Adam Robitel, he was asked what it was like to step into a series that was already established. He said it was both daunting and exciting. He put it wonderfully when he said stepping into the director’s shoes for this film was like “going in under the shadow of Michael Jordan and trying to do a layup.” Perfectly put, in my opinion.
He was also asked what the biggest challenge was in making this prequel/sequel. The answer he gave here was that “psychologically the audience knows they’re going to survive, so how are you going to work against that?” He wanted to create a demon that was so scary to her that she essentially meets her match with this entity.
This, in my opinion, wasn’t necessary. The three other movies pits Parker against Elise in a cosmic battle between good and evil. HE is her match, and the third movie should have finished it all. I don’t think Mr. Key Fingers is anything to write home about. Yeah, he’s freaky, but I don’t think he’s “keep her from entering The Further with threats of death from the other side to the point where you stop doing the thing you love to protect yourself” freaky.
(at around 13 mins) Early in the movie Keyface tells young Elise he needs her to open all the doors. Later (at around 1h 30 mins), while trying to leave the Further, she opens a red door revealing Dalton and leaves it open which is how the Lipstick face demon crosses over.
I’m a little short on trivia this week, so here are some goofs also listed on IMDB:
(at around 53 mins) While Elise is in the basement behind the door an overhead microphone is clearly visible.(at around 41 mins) It’s clear from the narrative that Elise and her brother have not seen one another for at least five decades. How or why they would recognize one another despite not having remained in touch over that period of time is never explained. This is especially true as they have changed radically from the way that they looked in their youth.
Elise’s childhood house was a crime scene due to the murders which took place there, the kidnapped person who was discovered there and the fact that the owner was killed there. It would have been off limits for days or weeks.
Elise and the others would have been in serious trouble by going into the home and they certainly wouldn’t have been able to spend the many hours in the home that they did as the police would have either patrolled it or would have left a patrol car on the scene in such a rural area.
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