Insidious: The Red Door
Dir. Patrick Wilson (2023)
The re-possession of the Lambert's son requires yet another journey into The Further.
Like a lot of horror fans, I really enjoyed the first couple of films in the Insidious series. It was terrifying at times, and Lin Shaye's performance as the psychic Elise Rainier quickly became legendary. Following the law of diminishing returns, however, the series quickly dropped off in both quality and coherence, with The Last Key being one of the worst major studio releases of 2018. Unfortunately, the franchise had at least one more entry in it, and Insidious: The Red Door tries to pick up where The Last Key left off without Shaye, the only character really holding the series together.
Dalton Lambert (Ty Simpkins) is going off to college, nine years after the entire Lambert family was hypnotized into forgetting their experiences with The Further. After an art class goes awry, he finds himself once again astral projecting himself into the realm of the dead, coinciding with his father's (Patrick Wilson) attempt to remember his past through memory games and creepy MRI's. They eventually have to come together to try to close the red door to The Further once and for all. Or something.
If I can get on my soapbox for a minute, I have to say that I'm so sick of trauma being used by horror movies as an excuse for their characters to be terrible people. You know what? Everybody deals with trauma. Every single person on Earth has been through some shit they would have rather not gone through. You don't get to be a douchebag, deadbeat dad because you've had some hard times. Unfortunately, the rest of the characters are one-note and shallow, and the writing is atrocious and cringey. At one point, Dalton literally says "tell me, little brother." Like, the stuff that causes people to make fun of stepsibling porn. While this shouldn't be a surprise from the writer of Halloween Ends, the Firestarter remake, and The Exorcist: Believer, it somehow still is. At an hour and forty seven minutes (!), the film is at least half an hour longer than it should be.
I really try hard not to bash someone's artistic output. It takes a lot to make a movie, and I respect anyone who's willing to try. This, however, is truly a terrible movie. Outside of a few legitimate scares, it lacks literally all of the power of the previous installments (yes, even The Last Key, which was pretty bad in its own right). The Red Door exists solely to string together random jumpscares, on which it greatly over-relies, and the Insidious series has become almost a parody of itself, a derivation of anything good or original that the serious once contained. It lives on the ghosts of its previous installments, forcing the audience to be scared because we know that there used to be things that lurked behind the characters, and there used to be more to it than this.
As a study on trauma, it almost works. As practically anything else, it unfortunately does not, dragging itself to the finish line that feels like it exists not just for this movie but for the series as a whole. Rather than telling a coherent story, or even just sticking with the staid and stale story from the original, The Red Door tries to add more to the lore, a huge mistake in a film that has almost nothing going for it. The Insidious series once sought to tell the stories of the deceased through the amazing performance of Lin Shaye. Hopefully the next time the characters decide to enter The Further, they'll find this franchise there among the dead.
Who this movie is for: Insidious superfans, Quick zoom lovers, Metronome salesmen
Bottom line: Insidious is a series that should just die, already. The Red Door is a largely boring film that overrelies on jumpscares, and even the ones that are there aren't particularly effective. The series is just plain out of ideas, and it's just a rehash of earlier, better films at this point. It's competently made, at least, and maybe with some original ideas, director/star Patrick Wilson could make a fantastic film. This just isn't it. It's streaming on Netflix if you wanna see for yourself.