Insidious: The Red Door Review | Further Takes Forever

by Andrew Parker

Insidious: The Red Door, the fifth instalment in a franchise that grew inedibly stale several entries ago, begs one serious question from its audience. Clearly uninspired and not scary in the slightest, it goes without saying that Insidious: The Red Door is one of those sequels that never cried out to be made in the first place, but questioning its existence is pointless. Instead, viewers should ask themselves why they would willingly shell out almost fifteen bucks for the same emotional payoff one could get from simply staring at a wall for 105 minutes while someone randomly drops breakable objects in the background. If it weren’t for the obvious noises to cut through the silence, Insidious: The Red Door would have almost nothing going for it.

Following two marginally connected sequels to the genuinely thrilling 2010 original and a passable follow-up in 2013, Insidious: The Red Door returns to the story of the now fractured Lambert family. Set nine years after the last time viewers saw them, father Josh (Patrick Wilson) and mother Renai (Rose Byrne, who I hope got paid exceptionally well for a turn that amounts to little more than an extended cameo) are divorced and estranged after he – due to astral projection, possession, and spooky hauntings – tried to kill the entire family. He’s better now, and Josh wants to reconnect with his older son Dalton (Ty Simpkins), who’s nineteen, sullen, and about to head off to art school. With the help of hypnosis, neither Josh nor Dalton can remember what happened almost a decade ago, but thanks to one of the young man’s “edgy” professors, all of those repressed memories and spirits are about to come back to the surface for both men.

Insidious: The Red Door largely ignores the events of the third and fourth films, and I’m not sure if that was a wise move or not when one considers that an encyclopedic knowledge of the first two movies is the barrier for entry here. Then again, it might not help since Insidious: The Red Door makes little logical or narrative sense under any sort of scrutiny or with any degree of knowledge. It’s one of those movies where people who should know better do stupid things and are put in the path of conveniently placed traps because there wouldn’t be a movie otherwise. The way Insidious: The Red Door goes out of its way to come up with the silliest way to restart the franchise’s dying battery is amusing, but it’s just a means to an end. Nothing comes of it, and nothing comes of anything in this film. It just puts the viewer through a laundry list of paces for the sake of filling the screen.

The script from Scott Teems (the Firestarter remake, Halloween Ends) – with a story credit by series co-creator Leigh Whannell – is predictable, cliched, and dull. Insidious: The Red Door gets off to a criminally slow start before settling into familiar grooves that are never improved upon from its predecessors. Although the material seeks a return to familiar territory, Insidious: The Red Door is padded out with too many pointless scenes that offer neither character development or the requisite genre scares. Far too much of the story spins its wheels in search of something interesting to do, sometimes resorting to puke and poop jokes (via a subplot involving a frat house full of d-bags) just to elicit something close to a response. Instead of leaning into the ongoing torments faced by a father and son, each of these threads feel like they’re taking place in vacuums of their own and with almost no emotion whatsoever.

Simpkins does his best to anchor the film with a decent leading performance, and Sinclair Daniel is a welcome, energetic sight as Dalton’s eccentric female roommate, but no one else seems all that excited to be going back to the well. Cameos from actors in previous films are limp, unexciting, and phoned in like they’re providing well compensated favours, and even Wilson looks to be struggling in a bid to wrestle some sort of emotional connection to the material. That last bit is surprising, considering that Insidious: The Red Door is Wilson’s directorial debut behind the camera. As a filmmaker, Wilson’s instincts are relatively sound, if sometimes stock and on-the-nose, but one has to wonder if he would’ve been enticed to come back at all if he wasn’t given such an opportunity.

It all builds to an ending that’s as familiar as a classic song… literally and even if they can’t afford the rights to actually play the thing they’re so obviously referencing. Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with familiarity, especially when it comes to genre films, but astute viewers can tell when there’s only a bare minimum effort being put in by the powers responsible for creating something. Insidious: The Red Door feels less like a haunting, big screen scare-fest and more like contractual obligation from people who – like all of us – have bills to pay. It’s not even memorably bad, so it will likely fade from memory as quickly as it arrives, no hypnotherapy necessary.

Insidious: The Red Door opens in theatres everywhere on Friday, July 7, 2023.

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