REVIEW: Insidious: The Red Door (2023, dir. Patrick Wilson)

Certificate: 15

Running Time: 107 mins

UK Distributor: Sony Pictures

WHO’S IN INSIDIOUS: THE RED DOOR?

Patrick Wilson, Ty Simpkins, Rose Byrne, Andrew Astor, Juliana Davies, Lin Shaye, Hiam Abbass, Sinclair Daniel, Peter Dager, Jarquez McClendon

WHO’S BEHIND THE CAMERA?

Patrick Wilson (director), Scott Teems (writer), Jason Blum, Oren Peli, James Wan and Leigh Whannell (producers), Joseph Bishara (composer), Autumn Eakin (cinematographer), Derek Ambrosi (editor)

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

The Lambert family must revisit the ghosts of their past…

WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS ON INSIDIOUS: THE RED DOOR?

Director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell’s 2011 feature Insidious was a major sleeper hit, earning $100 million on a $1.5 million budget as well as solid feedback from critics and audiences, which of course means a new horror franchise was instantly born – but, like a lot of other movie series created from the enormous success of the original, very few of its follow-ups ever lived up to the original. Not even Wan and Whannell could match their own success, with their direct sequel Insidious: Chapter Two disappointing as an unnecessary continuation that settled for a less-chilling pastiche of The Shining, and the third and fourth movies – both of them prequels, with Whannell even directing one of them – barely even touching the genuine scares that the first film was able to conjure.

It shouldn’t come as too much of a shock, then, to learn that Insidious: The Red Door, the fifth overall entry in the franchise and a direct sequel to Insidious: Chapter Two, also does not reach those heights, despite doing everything within its power to recreate what made the original such an effective standalone.

Patrick Wilson, who makes his directorial debut with this film, returns as Josh Lambert who we last saw, along with his equally disturbed son Dalton (Ty Simpkins), having their memories of the supernatural realm known as the Further be suppressed, seemingly for good. Nine years later, Josh is now divorced from his wife Renai (Rose Byrne), has recently lost his mother, and Dalton has grown into a moody, long-haired wannabe artist who’s about to leave for college. Shortly after beginning his studies, however, Dalton starts having some distressing visions of a mysterious red door and various demons surrounding it, as does Josh who attempts to piece together the things he cannot seem to recall, eventually forcing both of them to return to the Further to put an end to their hauntings once and for all.

Aesthetically speaking, Insidious: The Red Door is perfectly fine. As a first-time director, Wilson does manage to keep his vision as close as he can to how Wan framed both the first and second Insidious movies, and even manages to sneak a few legitimately creepy shots into scenes that are mercifully not accompanied by a loud musical stinger (though that isn’t to say the film is completely free of those). Wilson handles the creepiness reasonably well, particularly in claustrophobic scenes like one set in an MRI machine which allow him and cinematographer Autumn Eakin enough free reign to play around with atmosphere and lighting to create an unnerving visual effect. There are also times when characters in the present travel back to events from the previous films, including when some of them were young children, and the effect is largely seamless as it cuts between certain people now and how they were ten years ago.

The acting, too, remains as solid as ever in these movies. Aside from Wilson being as charming as ever, Ty Simpkins nails the grungy, borderline-emo teen persona a little too well, kind of like if his squeaky-clean character from The Whale ended up falling into Sadie Sink’s bad crowd from that movie. Simpkins has more screen-time than Wilson does, with the latter taking on more of a supporting role alongside fellow returning performer Rose Byrne (who, bless her soul, is given next to nothing to do here), and he just about carries the film with fun support from Sinclair Daniel as Chris, his new college friend who thankfully doesn’t get too annoying as unexpected comic relief characters in horror movies sometimes can be.

The problem, though, is that the script never really gives the viewer a good enough reason to care. Credited to Scott Teems, who also wrote last year’s woeful remake of Firestarter – which, for the record, Insidious: The Red Door is a better overall movie than – the script doesn’t present thrilling enough stakes to get invested in, nor does it do a whole lot with its returning characters other than have them repeat obstacles that they went through in the other films. You never feel as though any of these people are in serious danger, because the stuff that they’re going through has been overcome in the past, so there’s little suspense as to whether they can just get through it all as they did previously.

More concerningly, the film just isn’t that scary. Like I said earlier, there are definitely some creepy shots scattered throughout, such as one particularly chilling one that’s shown immediately before the opening titles get underway, but the majority of them rely on the tried-and-tested jump-scare tactics that tend to plague a lot of other underwhelming horror movies nowadays. The scares on display here are more like when some annoying guy presses a hand buzzer onto the back of your head every five minutes; sure, it’ll make you jump in your seat but not because you’re genuinely scared, it’s because it’s just come out of nowhere to give you a quick fright before scampering off again. Granted, this kind of scare method has been done far more obnoxiously than how this movie does it, but that doesn’t stop you from recognising how tired and even lame they seem to be here as well.

Does that make Insidious: The Red Door an overall bad movie? Not really, for there is still some decent filmmaking and strong performances to admire about it, but it does make it a rather underwhelming one, especially as something that’s meant to tie up the stories of characters introduced in the previous films. Most of the other films did at least have something going for it, whereas this mainly just feels like they’re doing whatever they can to keep the franchise alive, even when it’s long past the point where they really needed to stop. It’s certainly an improvement over the previous Insidious film The Last Key, but The Red Door is still nowhere close to recapturing what made the original Insidious a truly creepy standalone movie, and sadly doesn’t make much of a valid argument for its own existence.

The recently-announced Insidious spin-off Thread, set to star Kumail Nanjiani and Mandy Moore, looks like it might take things in a more interesting direction with this franchise, but for now the main story is ending with a soft slam of the door.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Insidious: The Red Door is a largely underwhelming conclusion to the main strand of the horror franchise, which despite some solid filmmaking from first-time director Patrick Wilson and a bunch of solid performances, isn’t scary or compelling enough to care about.

Insidious: The Red Door is now showing in cinemas nationwide

Click here to find showtimes near you!

Stay updated with all the latest reviews and previews by signing up for our free newsletter, delivered to your e-mail inbox every week!

Search from over ten years of movies here:

Other recent reviews:

Abigail (2024, dirs. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett)

A group of kidnappers realise that young Abigail is no ordinary child…

Rebel Moon – Part 2: The Scargiver (2024, dir. Zack Snyder)

A group of intergalactic rebels make their stand against a totalitarian regime…

Sometimes I Think About Dying (2024, dir. Rachel Lambert)

An introverted office worker befriends a new work colleague…

The Book of Clarence (2024, dir. Jeymes Samuel)

In 33 AD Jerusalem, Clarence takes advantage of the celebrity culture surrounding a certain prophet…

Back to Black (2024, dir. Sam Taylor-Johnson)

Rising singer Amy Winehouse falls in love with Blake Fielder-Civil…

Bleeding Love (2024, dir. Emma Westenberg)

A father and his addict daughter go on a road trip together…

Civil War (2024, dir. Alex Garland)

A group of journalists travel across America as it descends into a modern civil war…

The Teachers’ Lounge (2023, dir. İlker Çatak)

A teacher conducts her own investigation into a series of thefts at her school…

Seize Them! (2024, dir. Curtis Vowell)

In Medieval England, an arrogant Queen is overthrown in a rebellion…

The Trouble with Jessica (2024, dir. Matt Winn)

A dinner party descends into chaos after the arrival of an unexpected guest…