Insidious: The Red Door Is a Better Drama Than a Horror Movie

Insidious: The Red Door Is a Better Drama Than a Horror Movie

What happens after the horror movie ends? Once the heroes have killed the monster and lived to fight another day, what is life like? What does that kind of fear and trauma do to a person or a family? Those are the questions at the centre of Insidious: The Red Door, the fifth film in the Insidious franchise and first since 2013’s Chapter 2 to feature the stars of the original played by Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, and Ty Simpkins. It’s a film that has a good heart and the best intentions, but lacks the tension and scares that made the franchise a hit in the first place.

When last we saw these characters, father Josh (Wilson) and son Dalton (Simpkins) made the choice to have the events of the first two films wiped from their memories by hypnosis — the thought being that any memory of the unimaginable terrors they’d experience would only be a bad thing. Well, almost a decade later (both in the film and in reality) the hypnosis has left both their lives feeling incomplete. As a result, Josh and Dalton don’t have much of a relationship, while Josh and Renai (Byrne) have divorced.

Because it’s been so long since we’ve seen Josh, Dalton, and Renai, The Red Door takes its sweet time reestablishing them. There are flashbacks, a funeral, plenty of tension and eventually father and son begrudgingly give things another shot when Josh drives Dalton to college. A big deal is made about it but the actual move takes two scenes and it only makes things worse. As a result, The Red Door then branches into two separate stories: one is Josh figuring out what’s wrong with him alone and the other is Dalton rediscovering his past through his art classes, and with the help of new friend Chris (Sinclair Daniel).

Someone is behind you, Mr. Director. (Image: Sony)
Someone is behind you, Mr. Director. (Image: Sony)

As each story unfolds, there are hints and teases of terrors here and there, but for the most part, the movie is dead set on making Josh and Dalton feel relatable. In that aim, at least, it succeeds, simply because it’s all the movie is doing. Eventually, though, we know both of them have to rediscover the thing Insidious is all about: the Further, the alternate dimension father and son are able to access via astral projection which got this whole thing started in the first place. However, it takes way too long for the film to fully reestablish that concept and the film’s pacing suffers greatly for it.

This time around, Wilson not only stars in The Red Door, but also makes his directorial debut, which feels more than obvious in the film’s lack of balance. Yes, the film does a serviceable job of making us relate to Josh and Dalton’s plights, and eventually both do rediscover and begin to explore the Further. But, by that point, any scary horror stuff feels like an afterthought. It’s there more as a way to bolster the self-discovery of father and son, which undercuts any actual tension or fear the film conveys to its audience. The scares are few and far between and the characters get lost in the attempts at horror.

Sinclair Daniel plays Dalton's college friend Chris, but she doesn't have much to do. (Image: Sony)
Sinclair Daniel plays Dalton’s college friend Chris, but she doesn’t have much to do. (Image: Sony)

So maybe the scares aren’t the point. Maybe it’s only about the trauma. And as the movie continues to explore what repressing memories did to these characters, The Red Door does encourage a level of introspection beyond what’s on screen. It is genuinely interesting to think about what surviving a possession would do to a person. How a family would react knowing that evil beings have been out to kill all of them. But even that focus gets lost once Wilson decides to make more and more of the movie about the Further, and the balance is lost once again.

Insidious: The Red Door isn’t a bad movie, it’s just a misguided one. The idea to bring back the original Lambert family 10 years later, played by the actors from the first movie who’ve now all aged 10 years, was certainly a strong one. There’s a noticeable familiarity between the actors, and Simpkins, who is basically the lead this time around, has grown leaps and bounds as an actor. But the script by Scott Teems never gives any of the film’s ideas enough time to fully blossom, and so the actors are forced to work with scraps. There are some fun little Easter eggs and surprises for fans of the franchise, and the film does eventually bring a bit more closure to the Lamberts’ story. But in doing so, it forgets why Insidious was so successful in the first place. It was scary as hell with a super cool mythology. The Red Door isn’t scary at all and is near devoid of its mythology. It feels more like a documentary about the aftereffects of the original films than a true follow up.

Insidious: The Red Door is now in theatres.