On Tuesday night, I had the absolute pleasure of stepping into The Further for the home video release of the latest chapter in the INSIDIOUS franchise, INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY. While there, I had the chance to check out some of the actual props used in the film while also attending a special Q&A session with the cast and crew. Having been a fan of the series since it first debuted in 2010, the opportunity to sit in and listen to the cast speak about their experiences filming THE LAST KEY, is something that I will treasure for a long time.
During the Q&A the cast not only talked about the experiences on set, but also the strong female cast, led by the insanely talented Lin Shaye, as well as ageism in Hollywood, and the family-type bond that has grown exponentially over the four films. Interspersed throughout this portion we got to see some deleted scenes from THE LAST KEY as well as some behind-the-scenes clips, which can all be found on the Blu-ray and DVD home release. In attendance were director Adam Robitel, writer Leigh Whannell, and actresses Lin Shaye, Spencer Locke and Caitlin Gerard. Each took turns discussing their roles while simultaneously throwing playful jabs at each other. Watching the genuine interactions take place really brought home the notion that these actors really enjoyed each other’s company.
When the Q&A ended, guests were given the chance to snack on some delicious appetizers and drinks, as well as pose for pictures within The Further, as THE LAST KEY played on in the background. The location, located at the Basement Tavern inside The Victorian in Santa Monica, couldn’t have been more perfect for this event as it gave us an aura of mystique. Fog curled it’s way into the dimly lit bar with chandeliers above that flickered on and off. Situated on the black walls were photos of some of the iconic entities from The Further and throughout the space we could hear the iconic score that ties all four films together, composed by the incredibly talented Joseph Bishara.
Shortly after the Q&A ended I had the chance to speak with some of the cast one on one. First up was the iconic Lin Shaye who talked about what it was like to reprise her role as parapsychologist Dr. Elise Rainier for THE LAST KEY as well as what it was like to dig deep into her past.
“I was sort of speechless in a way. When I read the story I was elated to see that this character inspired such a rich story and that Leigh [Whannell] was able to fill out her background. I always saw Elise as a loner because her whole life is about what she receives, that’s a part of who she is. To have Leigh discover that she has a brother and a father from hell, as well as a sadness in watching her parent expire, it’s something I can’t even imagine. Those elements were so enormous, I really felt like I had this huge responsibility to experience those elements which were very difficult and painful to even imagine. Even though you are still pretending, your body doesn’t know you are pretending.”
Ms. Shaye continued to discuss the emotional impact INSIDIOUS 4: THE LAST KEY left on her as well as how, at times, it was difficult to shoot.
“When you are having an emotion there is real stuff going on and at times it was very difficult to shoot because the whole thing was highly emotional. I usually cried my eyes out almost every scene. Finally I said to [director] Adam Robitel, ‘I can’t be crying through this whole movie!’, but he was very wise and he let me experience what I was experiencing, which was the depth we were trying to convey. I was very pleased, to be honest, to see how it unfolded on screen. I don’t like watching myself particularly, but I was happy with what we did.”
I then spoke with actress Spencer Locke, who plays Elise’s niece, Melissa Rainier, about what her experience was like coming on board the already established franchise.
“Oh my gosh, so intimidating and exciting! I tried to do all the research I could especially since I’m a big time fan of the films. It’s wild to come into the franchise where everyone truly is like a family. That’s not always the case, not everyone gets along as well as this cast does. Everyone on this film couldn’t have been more welcoming, they were all wonderful. I also felt a huge responsibility in playing Elise’s niece, which was awesome.”
Since the films draw so heavily from the supernatural, I was dying (no pun intended) to know if any supernatural activity occurred on set. Spencer smiled, looked at Lin, and asked if she was okay with once again retelling this story, which Lin happily gave her the go ahead for.
“One night, it was a late night shoot, we filmed till 2am which meant we didn’t get to bed till 3am. I had fallen asleep and woke in the middle of the night to see something dark and big and scary fly at me. Terror, I felt absolute terror. I said a quick prayer, went back to sleep, and brought it up on set the next day. [Leigh Whannell] said, ‘Oh we were shooting in an abandoned mental hospital, so I’m sure it was haunted and I’m sure you brought something home with you.’ I don’t know how true that was but yeah, we all have our own supernatural stories.”
Next up I had the chance to speak with director Adam Robitel, who co-directed the fiercely underrated 2014 horror film, THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN. During our talk he explained what it was like to take on the fourth chapter of the INSIDIOUS series.
“It was like a dream come true, for my second movie to be one where I step into a huge franchise that the godfather’s of horror created, it was like pinch me, it was a dream for me.”
Adam also spoke in length about casting actor Javier Botet as the demon Keyface.
“I’ve been a fan of [Javier Botet] since REC, the last three minutes of that movie are some of the scariest footage I’ve ever seen. I also had seen a motion test for MAMA and I thought it was incredible. When it comes down to it, when you need a non-CG character you either go with Doug Jones or Javier Botet, it’s not like I suddenly had a divine inspiration (laughs). I spoke to Blumhouse and Jason [Blum] who were great about bringing [Javier] over from Spain, which was not a small request, but he just had that physicality that was so iconic. I wanted the demon to have a very emaciated look, and in a world where we couldn’t have CG characters, I just knew we needed the type of body Javier had. He’s like 6’5″, has this kinesthetic ability as well as an elongated body [Javier suffers from Marfan Syndrome] that happened to really work for his character.”
Adam goes on to describe how the process of Keyface’s appearance came to be as well as the subtext surrounding the use of keys.
“When I was auditioning for the movie I had a buddy of mine, Jacob Hair, put together concept art of an image from Leigh’s draft. I then thought, what if this demon had a gullet like a key since in some of the earlier concept art we had done the key fingers which I found really interesting. The keys represent these stories of our past that we have to turn to unlock and let go; the idea that these resentments that we hold chew us up. This didn’t make the final film but I kept talking to Lin [Shaye] about her character and how she needed to get over her dad by forgiving him. He was a human being and he was doing the best he could and in the end, he sort of comes to her aid. There’s a lot of debate about personal responsibility and did the demon make this character into this or was he just a bad dude. At the end of the day, I think we want to believe that when a kid goes into Parkland, FL and shoots up all these poor children that there’s some other supernatural reason for this insane hatred that somebody is disposed to. I think that’s part of why these supernatural stories resonate, we want to believe something evil exists outside of the reptilian nature of humanity.”
Having had my own troubled experiences with my father, this was a part of the film that had impacted me the most out of all the films in the series. Speaking with writer Leigh Whannell, I was curious as to what made him want to deal with the themes of abuse and what prompted the storyline for Elise.
“It kind of evolved organically. It was quite hard to come up with the story for this film and I had to push myself to not repeat what we had already done. I guess an easy recipe for a sequel is just to add more to what you’ve already done. We see a lot of sequels, especially ones in the horror genre, that fall into this pattern. What I’ve tried to do with the INSIDIOUS movies is change it up a bit as the films go on. With this one, I just kind of started at the top and worked my way down in terms of elements. I knew that the film was about Elise, I knew that we were going to her hometown, and I knew we were going to meet her dad. I then started thinking about why she would choose this life of service to other people. Why would she be so dedicated to helping others with her ability? This triggered the thought that she might be trying to save other people as a way of healing herself. A lot of people who have suffered through trauma or abuse try to dedicate their lives to helping other people in hopes that they will help stop them from going through that. It’s kind of a rescue mentality and I think that fit well with Lin’s character and what we’ve seen of her thus far.”
As we finished up, I asked Leigh what it was like to once again step foot into The Further after having written the previous films in the franchise as well as directing the third chapter.
“It was good, though as I mention it was a tough one to write. The problem when you are writing a sequel you sort of exhaust the well of ideas you have. When I wrote the first INSIDIOUS movie, to me it was a contained story, like a standalone film. I wasn’t thinking about sequels at all. When I was writing the fourth film I felt, at least in the beginning, very tapped out of ideas. The well had run dry but I really dug deep to try and find new ideas and though it was tough, I’m really happy with the result.”
To say many of us are happy with the results would be an understatement. The INSIDIOUS franchise keeps growing and we couldn’t be more excited to see what lies ahead in the future. In the meantime, INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY will reunite fans with their favorite parapsychologist as we delve deeper into her past with some familiar faces and new additions. With all that said, make sure you pick up INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY, which is now available to own on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital, and check out our spoiler free review HERE. Now, can we please get an INSIDIOUS film about Tucker and Specs and their ghosthunting shananigans?