Friday 7 July 2023

Review: Insidious - The Red Door

Insidious: The Red Door
Cert: 15 / 107 mins / Dir. Patrick Wilson / Trailer

It has been, lest we forget, five years since the last Insidious movie. And ten years since the last good one. But Sony and Blumhouse have decided there are still fumes in the tank and this time co-leading man Patrick Wilson makes his directorial debut as well. Writer Leigh Whannell returns once more (this time in the company of Scott Teems), and we're back with the core cast where it all began.

In this fifth installment (there may be no numbers in the titles but rest assured Sony, we're counting), it's nine years after the events of Insidious Chapter 2 and the Lambert family's precarious happy ever after has petered to an end. Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai (Rose Byrne) have separated, Josh's mother Lorraine has passed away*1, and the spectral lodestone himself Dalton (Ty Simpkins) is about to go to art college. Josh is struggling with brainfog, as the lasting effects of the post-hypnotic suggestion that prevent him astrally projecting himself into danger are conflicting with his long-term memory. Similarly, Dalton finds that magically forgetting his abilities doesn't stop creatures from the other side seeking him out anyway...


After a slow-burn of a first act which plays like a genuinely interesting family melodrama, the colour saturation and gamma correction are turned down so the push-button, cattle-prod jump-scares can begin in earnest. You get the impression it's not that Patrick Wilson has anything new or unique to bring to this as a director, more that the man has starred in enough mid-budget studio horror movies that he's looked at whoever's sitting in The Big Chair and thought 'yeah, I reckon I could do that'. Insidious: The Red Door is by no means a bad movie, but it utterly squanders the property's cumulative potential.

Ty Simpkins' performance is strong in and of itself, but the role doesn't really allow him to flex as an actor (although has it ever?). Patrick Wilson, on the other hand, feels underratedly solid once again, with a surprisingly delicate turn that's no doubt the advantage of being able to direct one's own scenes. Both Wilson and Byrne have always had a decent handle in these films of conveying the actual weight of their emotion rather than just Shrieking-Fear, and this outing is no different. Sure, as a metaphor for parental anxiety and empty nest syndrome it's a bit on the nose, but the subtext is better for being text rather than being absent completely.


Of course Dalton's college setting opens the door to an array of setpieces the series has been previously unable to exploit: Shitty Teen Horror™. And leading the charge here, Sinclair Daniel as Dalton's roommate Chris seems to be acting in a far tackier version of the movie*2 despite bringing a welcome 'civilian' viewpoint. The keg-stands and explosive vomit occupy a limited section of the film thankfully, but their presence in the first place cheapens it.

Speaking of presence, in-universe character deaths don't stop other familiar faces returning of course, some of whom fill supporting roles while many are relegated to cameo-status. Between the demons we've already met and footage from the first two chapters intercut and re-composited throughout, there's plenty of connective tissue here. But crucially, there's never the feeling of two-way narrative traffic that writer Leigh Whannell once achieved. The film seems to spend a lot of its time pointing out the series' former glories, rather than expanding or exploring them.


If Insidious really had more to add to the story, it would have done so with its third movie. This tonal collection of callbacks has all the physical properties of a competent shocker, but doesn't enhance the events of those early films and barely even adds to them in any meaningful way. The style is fine, but ultimately this is hampered by a lack of coherent writing. The film seems to end just because things stop happening, rather than plot-points having been usefully resolved. This could be seen through some eyes as sequel-bait, but as of the closing credits there really is no story to continue.

The long and short of all this is that The Red Door is more interesting than the last two Insidious movies, and nowhere near as inventive as the first two. Which, at this point, feels about right...

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Yes that's right they've written out Barbara Hershey, the only claim to any semblance of dignity these movies ever had.
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*2 According to this script, there are actual human teenagers in the present day who literally say "BRB" and "interwebs" out loud using their mouths and sweet Christ will somebody please make it stop if I wanted this shit I'd watch Bodies Bodies Bodies.
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• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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