Thursday, June 13, 2024

“INSIDIOUS: THE RED DOOR”

THE STORY – Josh Lambert heads east to drop his son, Dalton, off at school. However, Dalton’s college dream soon becomes a living nightmare when the repressed demons of his past suddenly return to haunt them both.

THE CAST – Ty Simpkins, Patrick Wilson, Hiam Abbass, Sinclair Daniel, Andrew Astor & Rose Byrne

THE TEAM – Patrick Wilson (Director) & Scott Teems (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 107 Minutes


Believe it or not, it’s been over five years since the last film in the “Insidious” series. For a scary movie franchise that pumped out its first four installments in less than a decade, one might hope that the reason they waited so long before making the latest film in the series – “Insidious: The Red Door” – would be because they wanted to wait until there was a story worth telling. What was undoubtedly the spark of inspiration that led to the creation of this film is its return to the series’s roots. Namely, the Lambert family, whose paranormal problems accounted for the first two films in the franchise. Patrick Wilson, who portrays the family’s patriarch, Josh, is even pulling double duty as the film’s star and director – his debut behind the camera. Wilson has quite the impressive director’s beret to fill, considering the first two films in the series were directed by one of the most consistent working directors, James Wan, and the third chapter was helmed by Leigh Whannell, who would go on to great success with his version of “The Invisible Man.” “Insidious: The Red Door” allows Wilson to flex his horror muscles, tossing some effective jump scares at the audience. But unfortunately, the decent frights are outweighed by a sometimes-baffling screenplay and imperceptibly dark cinematography.

The latest entry in the horror saga finds Josh (Wilson) feeling especially troubled as both his mental stability and family seem to be drifting away from him, especially his oldest son Dalton (Ty Simpkins). After dropping Dalton off at college, Josh and his son experience troubling, terrifying visions. They both must face their horrifying past to save themselves and those around them from otherworldly demonic forces.

The “Insidious” franchise has become known for its terrifying imagery. It’s hard not to find a listicle or YouTube countdown of the greatest jump scares without mention of the infamous reveal of the red-faced demon from the first entry. And as is often the case with horror films, if your movie contains a handful of memorable scares, that’s sometimes enough to satisfy audiences. “Insidious: The Red Door” does admittedly have its share of decent jump scares, especially early on as the movie establishes the specters that are haunting the human characters. Thankfully, they’re all genuine jump scares produced by supernatural elements instead of cheap, false jump scares from, say, a bird slamming into a window. One sequence involving an MRI machine is particularly terrifying and will surely be the moment that most people recall when describing the film to their coworkers on Monday. But as the film goes on, it becomes apparent how indebted it is to James Wan’s first two entries in the series. Nearly all the scariest images are either pulled directly from or clearly drawn upon those found in the Wan-helmed films. In fact, some flashback sequences are lifted directly from those films, and the difference in tone and tension is apparent by comparison. The original scares and creations of “Insidious: The Red Door” are decidedly simpler and less creative.

With most of the film taking place at college, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that some of its new characters and the situations they find themselves in are decidedly odd and sophomoric. Chris (Sinclair Daniel), Dalton’s first college friend, is written with a particularly strange sensibility that sometimes feels out of place. But Daniel sells the character with enough sincerity behind the weirdness that it feels believable (and who didn’t know people in college who seemed to go out of their way to appear as off-beat as possible?) But the screenplay is littered with unfunny and off-putting remarks from fellow students, along with uncomfortable situations and side plots that feel pointless.

One area in which the script shockingly succeeds is the refreshing way it looks at hereditary mental illness. Notably, the film acts as an honest horror-based metaphor for how men sometimes go out of their way not to talk about what feels off inside them, even to those closest. Horror films can sometimes slip into troubling portrayals of mental illness, even when merely explored symbolically, so it’s nice to see a scary movie nobly navigate that path.

Simpkins is tasked with portraying a host of varied emotions; all shrouded under the kind of detached disdain that plenty of teens adopt, regardless of their proximity to demons. At times, Wilson’s direction does him no favors by asking him to show quick bursts of emotion that come suddenly and surprisingly. He’s best when playing disaffected and resentful, notably in an early confrontation with his father that escalates quickly. The film is lucky that he kept up acting and gained valuable experience in the years since his performance at only nine years old in the first “Insidious.” Wilson shows precisely why he has become an unlikely established figure in the world of horror. Even acting as his own director, he’s a suitable anchor for the film who reacts well to both the reality-based drama and otherworldly creatures that are constantly screaming in his face. However, a pivotal flashback to “Insidious: Chapter 2” shows him exerting a specific kind of frightening emotional ability, which is mostly missing here.

The film clearly tries to capture some of Wan’s ability to portray effective spooky variances in lighting, hiding terrifying reveals in an obscured darkness that somehow never feels indiscernible. Unfortunately, the cinematography is often merely dark in a way that invites more squinting than hiding behind fingers. This is particularly noticeable as the film includes a couple of collegiate art classes featuring a pretentious professor making a point to discuss the importance of contrast and the abilities of chiaroscuro when assembling a compelling image. For the movie to make mention of such valuable visual aspects and mostly ignore them is almost comically disappointing.

For fans looking for the cheap thrill of fun jump scares, “Insidious: The Red Door” will get them jolting in their seats. But as it’s full of uninspired original horror images shrouded in deep darkness, the film represents the lowest point in the series thus far.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Jump scare junkies will find plenty here to jolt them out of their seats.

THE BAD - The horror imagery is decidedly less inspired than those from the original James Wan-directed films. Dark cinematography further robs them of their power to terrify fully.

THE OSCARS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 5/10

Subscribe to Our Newsletter!

Cody Dericks
Cody Dericks
Actor, awards & musical theatre buff. Co-host of the horror film podcast Halloweeners.

Related Articles

Stay Connected

98,860FollowersFollow
98,860FollowersFollow
7,305FansLike
7,305FansLike
4,490FollowersFollow
4,490FollowersFollow

Latest Reviews

<b>THE GOOD - </b>Jump scare junkies will find plenty here to jolt them out of their seats.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The horror imagery is decidedly less inspired than those from the original James Wan-directed films. Dark cinematography further robs them of their power to terrify fully.<br><br> <b>THE OSCARS - </b>None <br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>5/10<br><br>"INSIDIOUS: THE RED DOOR"