Patrick Wilson returns as both star and first-time director of The Red Door, the fifth and hopefully final Insidious movie.
Fifth installments have always been tricky when it comes to horror franchises. It’s difficult to make a horror movie interesting even one time, let alone five. Once in a while, studios try to offer something fresh with their fifth entry, such as the major tonal shift in Seed of Chucky. Or the total franchise reset of Friday the 13th: A New Beginning. As for the beloved Insidious franchise, Sony and Blumhouse decided to forge their own path with a direct sequel to Insidious: Chapter 2 with Patrick Wilson both starring and directing (in his feature debut). The result is one of the most painfully unoriginal, poorly-written slogs in recent memory.
Following the events of Chapter 2 rather than 2018’s Insidious: The Last Key, the Lambert family is finally back after being absent for the third and fourth prequel films. The movie jumps to 9 years in the future where we get a flurry of information. Lorraine, the family matriarch, is dead, and Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai (Rose Byrne) are divorced. But worst of all, Dalton (Ty Simpkins) is moody. Both Josh and Dalton having had their memories blocked of all the events of the first two films and have also drifted apart. To try and rekindle any kind of father-son relationship, Josh offers to drive Dalton to college and help him get settled.
The first 15 minutes offer hope.
The set-up is solid, and the building blocks of an interesting movie are present. This is where previous Insidious movies would pivot and introduce the main demonic villain, or the idea of it early in the film, creating suspense and a familiarity that would inevitably lead to a satisfying third act boss fight between good and evil. We all know how this goes.
Insidious: The Red Door instead spends an extended amount of time with its main antagonist: a foggy memory. As Dalton settles into college, he takes one (literally one) art class where he’s asked to go deep within himself, and as the teacher counts down from 10, hazy memories of past demons begin to enter his mind. The movie then dilly-dallies on both Dalton and Josh’s foggy memory for far too long, confusing the audience on what this movie is even about.
Patrick Wilson pulls double duty with this film, and his first effort as director was frankly doomed from the start due to this risk-averse screenplay. Outside of a clever opening crane shot of an upside-down cross, the movie doesn’t offer much in terms of visuals or aesthetic. The shots are steady and predictable with actors in familiar blocking. It isn’t rare for first-time directors to play it safe, but The Red Door is practically afraid of its own shadow.
Scott Teems, screenwriter of Firestarter and Halloween Kills, took over screenplay duties from series regulars James Wan and Leigh Whannel (who helped develop the story with Teems). It’s not clear how a film at only 97 minutes managed to be this meandering, particularly for a mainstream horror franchise. The film sets up certain moments to be massive reveals, but they’re mostly just Dalton remembering something the audience already knows if they watched the previous movies.
Each Insidious installment offers updated lore and an expanded understanding of the series’ demonic universe, but Red Door doesn’t even attempt to add its own stamp. Instead, it rehashes previous plot lines and nearly mimics a third act from an earlier film. The most notable downfall is the dialogue, where as the film forces us to witness a 50-year-old white man trying to Gen-Z-ify their character.
Perhaps the only redeemable aspect of The Red Door is a great performance from series newcomer Sinclair Daniel, who plays Dalton’s roommate/sidekick, Chris. Even with the deck stacked against her as the unfortunately designated comic-relief (with some of the film’s worst one-liners), she still manages to deliver unbelievable lines somewhat believably.
The Red Door criminally underuses Rose Byrne, perhaps due to production or contract issues. Ty Simpkins does what he can with an inconsistently written character, offering a few decent moments of grief, but mostly flat indifference otherwise. Though no one holds a candle to “Nick the Dick” (Peter Dager), maybe one of the worst characters put to screen this decade and likely, hopefully, an elaborate prank on behalf of the filmmakers.
The bottom line.
You may be in a place where you’ll really want to like Insidious: The Red Door for both Patrick Wilson’s sake and the franchise itself. If you’re hoping to find at least something you’ll like, you will almost certainly not. The film is a clinic in what happens when franchises and IP changes creative hands to those who lack the vision and artistic lens that made the previous films so good. The film’s horror and suspense has gone MIA, along with any convincing dialogue or a director with a clear story to tell. This is absolutely one door that should stay shut.
Insidious: The Red Door is now playing in theaters. Watch the trailer here.
Images courtesy of Sony Pictures Releasing. Read more articles by Mike Overhulse here.
INSIDIOUS: THE RED DOOR - 2/10