An 'Insidious' Refresher Course for Before 'The Last Key'

Here's what you need to remember about Elise Rainier and the Lambert family.
Courtesy of Universal Pictures
'Insidious: The Last Key'

Insidious returns this week with The Last Key, the fourth installment of the hit horror franchise. For those Insidious fans who might need a little refresher about the series centering on demonic possession and a supernatural, this look back at what's come before is for you.

One of the key factors that differentiates the Insidious series from others in the horror genre is it gets its scares from demonic creature effects and psychological suspense rather than gratuitous violence and gore. The filmmakers cleverly pack in an extreme horror experience, all while maintaining a PG-13 rating. James Wan, director of 2010's Insidious and 2013's Insidious: Chapter 2, had previously helmed the 2004 torture horror film Saw, so this was something of a departure.

Initially, Insidious was about the Lambert family, before the serious pivoted over to Elise Rainier's (Lin Shaye) story, as she and her team of demonologists deal with communication with the dead and the removal of demonic possessions.

Elise Rainier first met the Lambert family in 1986 when Lorraine Lambert (played by Jocelin Donahue in the 1986 storyline and Barbara Hershey in the 2010 storyline) contacts Elise because her son seems to be experiencing supernatural events in their home (see: Insidious: Chapter 2). She suspected the house might be haunted, but Lorraine is told that it's not the house that is haunted; it's her son Josh (Garrett Ryan in 1986 and Patrick Wilson in 2010). It turns out that when people sleep, some actually travel to an astral dimension — a type of purgatory — that Elise refers to as The Further.

Some people are more gifted than others at traveling away from their bodies when sleeping, and Lorraine's son Josh is one of the more gifted travelers Elise had ever encountered. Sinister entities then began plotting to try to take over the body of a traveler leaving them trapped in The Further.

Elise successfully helped ward off the demon pursuing Josh, and then removed his ability to travel in The Further by helping him forget his power. After this, the demon, whom we only know as an old woman, stalks Elise, until she finally gives up demonology and communication with the dead altogether to keep the old woman away. Elise was sleepless for long periods of time, terrified after the old woman had vowed that she would kill her, no matter what, at all costs.

Around 20 years later, Elise's commits suicide after battling depression, leaving her lonely and without purpose. A teenage girl, Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott), comes to Elise, knowing she used to be able to communicate with the dead, and asks her to help her talk to her mother, who died a year earlier (see: Insidious: Chapter 3). Elise reluctantly helps, but finds out that in Quinn's attempts to communicate with her mother, she actually attracted the attention of sinister forces.

Lonely at home, Elise decides that her sole purpose will be to help people haunted by demonic forces. Elise helps Quinn and her family rid themselves of the demon threat, and enlists the help of two quirky assistants, Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (played by Insidious series writer Leigh Whannell).

Elise is soon contacted again by Lorraine Lambert after Josh's son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) begins having similar contact with the dead that Josh had as a child (see: Insidious). Josh (Patrick Wilson), now middle-aged, was unaware of what to do as he had no memory of the hauntings as a child, with Elise having worked to make him forget his gift.

Elise, Tucker and Specs all came to the Lamberts' home, helping Josh's wife, Renai (Rose Byrne), get their son out of what appeared to be a coma, when in actuality he had just been trapped in The Further and was unable to return to his body. Eventually, Josh was able to be convinced to use his gift again for the first time as an adult in order to go into The Further and save his son.

After locating Dalton and fighting to get back to their bodies, Josh was actually captured, and the old woman, who had been stalking him and Elise for Josh's whole life, was able to get into his body. Thinking everyone was safe, the team was celebrating when the old woman (in Josh's body), managed to get Elise alone and strangled her to death. Not knowing that her husband was possessed, Renai and the family went on with their lives, unsure of who or what had killed Elise.

Strange things began happening around the house (see: Insidious: Chapter 2), as Lorraine and Renai both struggled with trying to talk to a distant Josh. Renai contacts Tucker and Spec, who in their attempts to contact the spirit world, were able to make contact with Elise. Elise make contact with Josh in The Further, and works in conjunction with Renai, Tucker, and Spec to get the old woman out of Josh's body for good and kill her.

The Lambert family ends up having the memories of their ability wiped from their minds through some sort of hypnosis, and it appears they will live happily ever after. Elise is left to help Specs and Tucker do their work from the spirit world. This is where the story most likely ends for the franchise, as Insidious: The Last Key takes place mostly before the events of 2010's Insidious, following the story of Elise as a child.

Insidious: The Last Key is in theaters now.