Insidious: The Red Door is the scariest movie of the summer. While that might not seem like much, considering there have not been as many high-profile horror films so far in summer 2023, it is still a scary good time at the movies for audiences looking for a break from action spectacle. The Insidious franchise is back and better than ever. It, alongside Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and No Hard Feelings, also shows that Sony Pictures is truly taking chances and risks on a wide variety of films for the summer movie season, and it is paying off for them.
The first Insidious was a surprise hit with critics and audiences when it premiered in 2011. The movie, along with the previously released Paranormal Activity franchise, redefined the modern haunting film and helped usher in a new era of supernatural atmospheric horror. It spawned a popular franchise that included one direct sequel and two prequel films. The fifth film in the series, Insidious: The Red Door, is essentially the real Insidious 3 (Insidious: Chapter 3 itself was actually a prequel to the previous two films) as this film directly follows the events of the first two entries, taking place ten years after the events of Insidious Chapter 2.
Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) and Reani Lambert (Rose Byrne) have now separated, and their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) has now grown and is getting ready to go to college. Due to both Dalton and Josh having had their memories of the previous films wiped from their mind, a gap has been growing between them.
Yet as Dalton begins college, the events of the first two films he has repressed start to come to the surface and begin to haunt both him and his father. The two must return to the dark dimension known as The Further and put an end to an evil that has been haunting their family for longer than even they knew.
A Haunting Where the Drama Is Front and Center
Underneath all the paranormal elements and supernatural haunts, this is a relatable human story about the riff that forms between parent and child as one grows up. The supernatural elements are all seasoning for a story that is all too real for many, as a parent and child find themselves going through as time goes on. Josh and Dalton have grown apart due to the divorce and the multiple repressions fogging up Josh’s mind to where he has become distant from everyone. The horror elements are rooted in tangible anxieties the audience can relate to.
It also adds the subtext of repressed trauma, forming a major riff between individuals. While the previous Insidious movies argued that it was best to put these terrible memories in the past and forget them, Insidious: The Red Door builds off that to acknowledge the toxic nature of the thought process.
In the ten years that have passed since the release of Insidious: Chapter 2, a wider discussion about mental health has begun to take form. This long-awaited sequel justifies its existence by being in conversation with the original films. Instead of repressing terrible memories, it is better to acknowledge them and move forward.
Time has been the ultimate benefit of this movie. It also now arrives as the audience who likely saw the first two Insidious movies (which likely was rather young since they were rated PG-13) now are old enough to be close to Dalton’s age in the film. While a completely different format, the movie has the same impact as Toy Story 3 or Monsters University in that it is a movie that used the gap in time to its advantage to not only make audiences nostalgic but also tap into the age of the audience who likely grew up with the original entries.
While the previous Insidious prequels might have diluted the brand a bit, the first two films by James Wan were a masterclass in horror. Made all the more impressive by their PG-13 rating, they managed to be terrifying without any of the normal hallmarks of a slasher or a gory torture porn venture. Honestly, if one hasn’t gone back and rewatched the first two entries, it can be almost easy to forget just how good they are as terrifying movies but also really effective dramas. It left some pretty big shoes to fill, and luckily Patrick Wilson is more than up for the task.
Patrick Wilson Steps Up to Lead a Great Crew
Wilson himself has worked closely with Wan not just on the previous Insidious movies but also on The Conjuring franchise. He has also worked with some of the most creative filmmakers, from Joel Schumacher on The Phantom of the Opera, Zack Snyder on Watchmen, and Todd Field on Little Children. He has learned from the best and steps into the director’s chair easily.
While the movie might overuse the jump scare trick one too many times, it is hard to argue how effective they are and that Wilson knows how to build tension. Even when it is clear what is about to happen, it doesn’t make the final scare any less terrifying. Wilson has proven himself as exciting a director as he is an actor (and also a singer as he sings the song over the end credits proving he is a multitalented performer). It will be curious to see what he decides to follow this up with.
Wilson does a great job behind and in front of the camera, as do many of those involved. Ty Simpkins has truly grown up. For audiences who likely remember him as a kid from the first two Insidious movies or even in both Iron Man 3 and Jurassic World, seeing him as a young adult certainly will be shocking and a difficult adjustment.
In what is essentially his first full-time leading role, he easily sheds all expectations anyone might have held from his days as a kid actor. He carries a true sense of pain in his eyes that truly sells the sad, scared, and traumatized person at the center of this story.
The real star of the film is newcomer Sinclair Daniels, who plays Dalton’s college roommate and eventually companion on this journey into a heart of darkness. From her first moment on screen, she commands the screen and easily steals the show. As chilling as the atmosphere in the film is and how terrifying it can be, the first thing likely on everyone’s mind is who this person is and what else she can be seen in. Hopefully, Insidious: The Red Door is the beginning of a long and exciting career for her.
Insidious: The Red Door does have one major issue, and that is centered around the character of Reani Lambert, played by Rose Bryne. A vital part of the first two films, she is greatly sidelined in this movie. While she is not completely rewritten out of the film like Megan Fox in Transformers: Dark of the Moon or recast like Maria Bello replacing Rachel Weisz in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Bryne’s lack of screen time is still frustrating.
She factors early on in the beginning and does not return until the end of the movie. While the intention is to clearly focus on the father-son dynamic, it does feel like the mother’s role in the story is greatly short-changed, particularly when one considers how important she was in the first two. Her presence is brief, and that is rather frustrating.
A Worthy Conclusion to the Insidious Story
Insidious: The Red Door not only puts the franchise back on track, but it serves as an effective conclusion to the main Lambert trilogy of films while also tying nicely into the two prequel films to make a solid horror saga. It brings a story that started in 2011 to a satisfying conclusion. It might not be as scary as the original, but it gets pretty close.
As with any horror franchise, there will certainly be more (a spin-off film titled Thread: An Insidious Tale is already in development), but if the franchise wanted to end here, it would undoubtedly be a high note to go out on. Insidious: The Red Door will satisfy long-time fans of the franchise and should also scare any newcomers that have decided to join in for a scare.