Written by: Matt Patti | July 7th, 2023
Insidious: The Red Door (Patrick Wilson, 2023) 2 out of 4 stars.
Though I’m an avid fan of most horror genres, back when I was a child I was mostly limited to slasher flicks when it came to scary movies. For some reason, I was always far too scared to watch anything involving the paranormal or supernatural. And yet a guy walking around and slicing people up somehow didn’t faze me at all. It was when I was a pre-teen that I finally faced my fears and started watching films involving ghosts, demons, and the like.
One of the first films I saw fitting that description was the 2010 Insidious. It scared the bejesus out of me but I was strangely intrigued and ended up becoming a huge fan of the franchise. I’ve enjoyed every film thus far in the Insidious franchise, even the two prequels that some fans complain about: Insidious: Chapter 3 and Insidious: The Last Key. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and I can no longer say that every Insidious movie is a quality one. While Insidious: The Red Door has some merit, it is a far cry from the other films in the franchise and by far the weakest installment to date.
Insidious: The Red Door is a direct sequel to 2014’s Insidious: Chapter 2 and once again involves the Lambert family, just as did the first two Insidious films. Nine years after the events of Insidious: Chapter 2, Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It) and Renai (Rose Byrne, Like a Boss) are divorced, sharing custody of their children. Their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins, The Whale) is headed off to college to study art. Dalton and Josh’s memories are still repressed so that neither of them remember the events of Insidious and Insidious: Chapter 2 and therefore have no memories of the ghosts and demons they’ve encountered nor the alternate dimension called “The Further.” The hypnotic memory suppression also has side effects, though, as Josh’s memory is foggy and he is often confused, while Dalton thinks that he was in a coma. Josh drives Dalton to college and vows to get checked out by a doctor to see why his memory is so poor. Meanwhile, while at college, Dalton begins to see and hear the demons of his past, and attempts to put the puzzle pieces together of what really happened during the one year of his life he can’t remember.
With Patrick Wilson making his directorial debut with this film, as well as reprising his role as Josh Lambert, I was excited to see how the film would turn out. Wilson doesn’t completely fail in his debut, but it’s a clear drop-off in quality from the likes of James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s directorial styles. Wilson is able to achieve some decent suspense in creative ways in a few scenes, to his credit, but the conclusion of each of those scenes always seems underwhelming. Instead of holding the audience in suspense for as long as he can until they’re on the edge of their seat with anticipation and/or fear, Wilson decides to end the scenes far too early with a cheap jump scare that deflates any buildup of tension the audience witnesses.
It is enjoyable to see the Lamberts once again, especially for fans of the franchise, after two films without them. Patrick Wilson turns in a quality performance as an older Josh Lambert who has turned into a deadbeat dad of sorts due to his memory issues. However, the film mainly focuses on Dalton off at college, and therein lies one of the film’s biggest issues. Ty Simpkins isn’t horrible as Dalton, but he’s nowhere near capable of carrying this film on his own even with such a compelling character as the dimension-traveling Dalton. Sadly, all the viewer gets from this college-aged Dalton is a quiet, depressed, and aloof young man with much teen angst (as if we’ve never seen that before). Dalton and Josh don’t have much screentime together at all, and Renai has little screentime in general. I do think this film would work much better with the Lambert family together, because no member is quite interesting enough to hold the audience’s attention alone.
Since the horror elements don’t exactly work to their fullest potential, the best thing Insidious: The Red Door has going for it is its connection to the other Insidious films, but even that can’t quite save the film entirely. It is fun for longtime fans to see how the events of the previous films affect the characters later in their lives, and Wilson even takes some of those past events and further explores them in intriguing ways. Sadly, however, overly relying on previous installments rarely makes a new film great. While it doesn’t quite ruin any of the previous films in the franchise, Insidious: The Red Door just seems simply unnecessary in the end. Insidious: Chapter 2 is a much better and more fitting end to the Lamberts’ story, and this film doesn’t add enough to the franchise lore to warrant being made. In my opinion, the red door should have stayed shut.