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If you’re anything like me, you probably haven’t given too much thought to what happened to the Lambert family after the end of 2013 Insidious: Chapter 2. After all, their story seemed to have come to a definite conclusion, and the filmmakers didn’t seem to particularly mind either as they continued the franchise with two prequels. But since horror films are money in the bank even in the post-pandemic era of cinema, now comes Insidious: The Red Door, which revisits the original characters ten years later. You won’t be surprised to hear that they’re not doing very well.
Well, Renai (Rose Byrne) seems fine, since she had the good sense to divorce Josh (Patrick Wilson, making his directorial debut with this presumably final installment) after he tried to kill her and the kids. (He was possessed by a demonic spirit after he entered the spirit world known as ‘The Further’, but still…) And Josh’s mother, Lorraine (Barbara Hershey, sadly only seen in photographs) has just died, so not we need to worry more about her.
Insidious: The Red Door
It’s time to close the door.
Release date: Friday 7 July
Launch: Ty Simpkins, Patrick Wilson, Sinclair Daniel, Hiam Abbass, Rose Byrne
Screenwriter: Scott Teems
Rated PG-13, 1 hour 47 minutes
But things don’t go well for emotionally adrift Josh, who mourns the loss of his marriage, and his teenage son Dalton (Ty Simpkins, reprising his role from the first two films), with whom he has a strained relationship. In an effort to make things right, Josh – who along with Dalton had his own horrific memories of his past experiences repressed by a comfortable dose of hypnotherapy – offers to drive his son to college, where he’s starting his freshman year.
It doesn’t sit well, with the grumpy teenager resisting his father’s attempts at camaraderie, which include encouraging him to attend a frat party. Things improve marginally, both for Dalton and for the film, with the arrival of Chris (Sinclair Daniel), a witty and vivacious young woman who has been mistakenly assigned to be her roommate. She becomes Dalton’s friend and confidant, which isn’t an easy task because she doesn’t exactly have a bright personality.
Both father and son soon find themselves experiencing eerie visions and astral projection in all sorts of scary situations rated PG-13. Director Wilson effectively builds up jump scares with such repetitiveness that you wish your seat in the theater was fitted with a seat belt. But the horrors behind that infamous Red Door, filled with demonic figures who look like stand-ins for a Kiss tour, are purely of the perfunctory, shocking variety. The only truly creepy episode involves Josh being trapped in an MRI machine; anyone who has ever experienced being inside one of those hellish contraptions is sure to have a flashback of their own panic attack, even if it didn’t involve a monstrous figure being inside with you.
Scott Teems’ screenplay, based on a story written by him and series co-creator Leigh Whannell (who returns for a cameo as the genius Specs), attempts to infuse the unsettling proceedings with a drama revolving around the lingering sense of Josh’s guilt and revelations about the father he never knew, who now seems to haunt him. But none of that makes much of an impact, despite Wilson’s best efforts to deliver a character-driven storyline.
Fans of the series will appreciate the reappearances of many characters from the other films, including Lin Shaye’s psychic (she died in a previous installment, but death is no obstacle to cameos in films like this), although it’s a shame that the always welcome Byrne is relegated to a minor role. Wilson also receives less screen time than Simpkins, who is forced to carry the film despite the character burden of him being such a shame. Luckily, there’s Daniel, who supplies some much-needed comic juice to the otherwise one-time happenings, and Hiam Abbass (Succession), projecting his usual authority as Dalton’s art professor.
Patrick Wilson fans familiar with his fantastic musical theater turn to Broadway shows like Full Monty AND Oklahoma! he’ll want to stick around for the credits, with his vocals on a heavy metal song with Swedish rock band Ghost.