This week sees the release of Insidious: The Last Key, the fourth film in the Insidious series started by James Wan in 2010. As fans know full and well by now, the series hasn't been straightforward with its chronology, instead jumping back and forth through several epochs of time over the course of the four films, with The Last Key continuing to twist around the timeline.
In case you need an explanation after seeing the film, or simply want to know the secrets that this latest installment reveals about the events of the overall Insidious saga, we're here to help. Here is the Insidious franchise timeline explained in chronological order.
Fair warning: spoilers for the entire Insidious franchise below.
Insidious: The Last Key takes us back to the '50s childhood home of demonologist Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) and her abuse-filled childhood. We learn how the emergence of Elise's "gift" caused her to see all sorts of ghosts, and frightened her father so badly he went to sick extremes to punish her for them. One night, while locked in the basement, Elise is contacted by a malevolent spirit which tricks her into releasing it into the world. That "Key Face" demon murders Elise's mother, forever creating a dark rift between her and her father.
When Elise reaches her teenage years in the '60s, a final confrontation with her dad forces Elise to run away from home, abandoning her brother Christian to a harsh life under their father's thumb. Elise commits to her gifts, inspired by her late mother's loving words to go out into the world and help people.
1986 (Insidious: Chapter 2)
After building a career as a demonologist, Elise is contacted by doctor Lorraine Lambert (Barbara Hershey), who needs help with her son, Josh. When Elise discovers a powerful demon (the "Black Bride") trying to possess Josh, she realizes the boy is gifted with the ability to project his mind into the Astral Plane while asleep. As a safety measure, Elise uses hypnosis to suppress Josh's gift, hoping to keep the demon away from him.
Of course the fix is only temporary, as decades later, the demon haunting Josh eventually makes its way to his son Dalton (Ty Simpkins), who shares Josh's astral projection ability. After trying to beat back the demon in the year 2010, Josh, Dalton, and Elise's spiritual forms travel through the otherworldly realm called "The Further" back to 1986, where they make contact with Young Josh during he and Elise's first meeting.
Young Josh points the group to the home of Parker Crane, a serial killer who committed suicide in the hospital where Lorraine was a doctor, after being admitted for trying to castrate himself. Investigation through The Further reveals that Crane was horribly abused by his mother, Michelle, who is actually the demon woman in the white dress that has been haunting both Elise and The Lamberts for years. With this knowledge of the past, the group travel back to 2010 to battle the demonic Michelle Crane.
2000s (Insidious 3 and Insidious: The Last Key)
Between the time when Elise first met young Josh in 1986 and adult Josh in 2010, the demonologist works several big cases.
The first was a case several years before her reunion with Josh, when Elise (temporarily in retirement) is contacted by a young girl named Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott), who is trying to make contact with her dead mom. Elise starts to help the girl, but senses a demonic presence hanging over her. The warning signs come too late, as Quinn is soon haunted by a dark spirit in an oxygen mask called "The Man Who Can't Breathe."
At first, Elise refuses to battle the demon, fearing the Black Bride haunting The Further, who has been getting closer and closer to killing Elise every time she uses her gifts. However, after some amateur demonologists named Specs and Tucker try and fail to handle Quinn's possession, Elise finds the courage to return to The Further and battle The Man Who Can't Breathe. With help from the spirit of Quinn's mother, Elise defeats the evil spirit and frees Quinn. Inspired by the victory, Elise returns to active work as a demonologist, now partnering with Specs and Tucker as her researchers.
Sometime after the Quinn Brenner case, Elise is contacted for help by Ted Garza, the man who has moved into Elise's childhood home. Garza claims that an evil spirit is haunting him, and Elise knows that it must be the same spirit that she released as a young girl - the Key Face demon that killed her mother. Despite the massive trauma, Elise musters the courage to go back home to Five Keys, New Mexico, and confront her past.
Once back in her hometown, Elise makes contact with her estranged brother Christian (Bruce Davison) and his two daughters, Melissa (Spencer Locke) and Imogen (Caitlin Gerard). At first, the investigation leads to the reveal that Garza is actually a serial killer who has been keeping a young girl chained in his basement; however, after a crazed Garza is killed by Specs, it's further revealed that Garza was a puppet for Key Face, and that the demon had once possessed Elise's father, turning him into a serial killer for many, many years.
After Melissa's spirit is trapped by Key Face, Elise tries to go into The Further to save her niece, only to be tricked by Key Face into unleashing all her repressed anger at her father's condemned spirit. With help from Specs and Tucker, Imogen accesses her own power as a spiritual medium, traveling into The Further to save Elise. With help from Imogen, as well as both of her parents' ghosts, Elise manages to exorcise Key Face and save Melissa; however, in tracking Key Face through The Further, Elise inadvertently opens a door between the ghost realm and the home of a now-adult Josh Lambert, setting in motion a new series of dark events.
Fully reunited with her family, Elise finds she is finally able shed her fear of death and The Further, in order to fully embrace her gifts. Perfect timing for...
2010 (Insidious and Insidious: Chapter 2)
Soon after confronting Key Face, Elise is once again contacted by Lorraine Lambert, who reports that her son, Josh (Patrick Wilson) is once again being plagued by a demon. Elise rushes to the aid of Josh, his wife Renai (Rose Byrne), and their son Dalton, and discovers the latter is the target of the same red-faced demon that has been following Elise for some time. When the paranormal activity in the Lambert home gets more intense, Dalton is left seemingly comatose, and Elise must send Josh into The Further in order to save his son.
Josh's spiritual form manages to free Dalton from the lair of the Red-Faced Demon, but in making their escape, they are ambushed by the "Black Bride" that tormented Josh as a boy. Though Josh seems to fight off the spirit, he is secretly possessed by it, with the demon taking hold of his physical body, while Josh's spirit is trapped in The Further. Only Elise realizes the deception, but true to prophecy, the Black Bride uses Josh's body to strangle Elise to death.
When the police investigate Elise's death, Josh becomes the primary suspect of her murder. The Lamberts move to Lorraine's house, but the demonic activity only follows them there. Specs and Tucker discover the tape of Elise's first meeting with Young Josh in her house, which reveals that somehow adult Josh was present at the séance between Elise and his younger self. With help from Elise's colleague Carl (Steve Coulter), Tucker and Specs contact Elise's spirit, which points them to the abandoned hospital where Lorraine used to be a doctor. Those clues lead them to Parker Crane and the dark story of his evil mother, who is revealed to be the real puppet master behind Carl's career as a serial killer, as well as the demonic "Black Bride" entity.
Elise's ghost battles and then exorcises Michelle Crane's ghost in present day, freeing Parker's spirit just in time to stop Crane from using Josh's physical body to murder the Lambert family. Josh and Dalton both return to normal, and presumably go on to live better lives.
In the most recent development of the series, Specs and Tucker continue their demon-fighting work, now with Elise's ghost as their guide. The team arrive at the home of a family whose daughter is in a coma state similar to Dalton's; when Elise searches the home, a terrible dark spirit reveals itself to her, presumably setting up the next demonic antagonist.
Are you eager to see more form the Insidious franchise, or do you think it's run its course?
Insidious: The Last Key is now in theaters.