One of the most beloved horror franchises of the modern era, Insidious is finally coming to a close after running strong for a lucky 13 years. Everyone remembers the first time they saw 2010’s Insidious. Up until then, director James Wan and long-time writing partner Leigh Whannell were only known for creating and overseeing the highly-successful Saw franchise. The creative duo had tried to birth another original horror hit with 2007’s Dead Silence but lost out to studio interference. Filled with the kind of demonic imagery that stays with you forever and jumpscares that feel especially raw and uncut, Wan and Whannell struck gold yet again with the original Insidious, which now boasts a horror legacy that spans across two sequels and two prequels. And fans will be happy to know that Insidious: The Red Door rightfully flaunts the franchise’s signature style, delivering a solid fifth and final chapter.
Insidious: The Red Door is a direct sequel to Insidious: Chapter 2, since the third and fourth films are prequels, and brings back the original cast of Patrick Wilson, Ty Simpkins, Rose Byrne, and Andrew Astor who make up the Lambert family. Wilson, however, now takes on the roles of both actor and director with this sequel being his feature directorial debut. This kind of transition is nothing new for the James Wan family umbrella, as writer Leigh Whannell previously stepped up to direct Insidious: Chapter 3. Wan has mentored many of the filmmakers in The Conjuring franchise as well, which also stars Wilson in a leading role. Admittedly, this passing of the baton has seen mixed results before in Wan’s franchises. Patrick Wilson’s directorial transition in Insidious: The Red Door is almost seamless though, staying true to the series while packing in a few surprises of his own.
Taking place ten years after the first film, the Lambert family has fractured into pieces as a result of Josh (Wilson) and the kids’ memories being suppressed. What was supposed to help them forget and heal from the horrendous events of the first two movies has instead pushed them apart, with Josh and Renai (Byrne) now divorced and sharing custody of sons Dalton (Simpkins) and Foster (Astor). To make matters worse for Josh, Dalton is about to pursue his path of being an art student and is moving away to an east coast ivy-league university. He attempts to mend their estranged relationship by helping Dalton move in on campus. Against his better judgment, Josh ends up giving Dalton more reasons to stay away.
With the college-aged Dalton now on his own and emotionally wounded, the demons from the family’s past use this as the perfect chance to come crawling back and reclaim his body. The red Lipstick-Face Demon, otherwise known as “The Man with the Fire in his Face” or Darth Maul look alike, is especially hungry and ready to come back for seconds. Hundreds of miles apart, Josh and Dalton must unlock their traumatic memories on their own and find each other once more in “The Further” if they are to end this family nightmare once and for all. As one can already tell, Josh and Dalton’s father-son relationship owns the spotlight in Insidious: The Red Door. Even if Rose Byrne’s Renai takes an unfortunate backseat here (though, honestly, she’s probably already been through enough), this tighter focus leads to a satisfying conclusion for fans that have stuck around all these years.
Insidious: The Red Door feels slightly more intimate and personal than previous films. This final chapter isn’t so much worried about squeezing in as many scares or ghosts as possible as it is trying to bring the franchise a strong sense of closure – something that can’t always be said for every horror series. Even though the Insidious movies are rooted in the idea of The Further and its many lost souls, it really all started with Josh and Dalton’s connection to it. Written by frequent Blumhouse writer Scott Teems (Firestarter, Halloween Kills), with Leigh Whannell co-developing the story, the decision to go for a more narrowed-down story pays off. Fans may even feel like it’s a breath of fresh air after Insidious: The Last Key, led by Lin Shaye’s Elise, was caught up in a lore-heavy plot. Insidious: The Red Door thrives in its simplicity.
Patrick Wilson hones in on the father-son drama of Insidious: The Red Door and mostly succeeds. This was perhaps always going to be his biggest strength directing from an actor’s perspective. He gives enough care to the characters so by the time he starts letting loose on all the horror, the audience is thoroughly invested and always ready for the next scare. The drama of the film is only brought down by the dialogue in the script, which at times comes off as too melodramatic. This is most seen with Dalton, who sometimes sounds like a stereotypical angsty teen. But Wilson and Ty Simpkins make the best of it and it’s nowhere near as bad as other recent horror movies that deal with trauma. Dalton’s new college friend Chris (Sinclair Daniel) also has iffy dialogue at times, yet the newcomer actress still gets the job done as fine comedic relief.
Although not as overall frightening as James Wan’s works, there’s still plenty of fun to be had here. After starring in so many horror films, Patrick Wilson’s excitement of finally being the one playing with the monsters behind the camera is strongly felt. The best scares of Insidious: The Red Door are the ones that feel up close and personal. One moment in an MRI session is built up with just the right amount of tension to result in a new favorite from the whole franchise. Another scare with Dalton and loads of vomit is just as raw and shocking as Wan’s own horrors. Wilson isn’t simply copying his former director, but forming equally memorable moments in ways unique to this story. The huge downside to Insidious: The Red Door is that not all of the ghosts have as much standout personality, that is, of course, excluding the Lipstick Demon.
Darth Maul face is once again the star of the film and his return makes way for some wretched visuals, as expected. Yes, Tiny Tim’s “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” is played again as well. Funny enough, Patrick Wilson also inserts “Fill Your Heart” this time, which is the B-side track to the same record. These scenes don’t come close to what James Wan did with the monster in 2010, but it’s still pretty gnarly and an utter delight for any horror fan to see. That can be said for the whole movie. Insidious: The Red Door is neither the worst nor the best of the franchise, and that’s perfectly fine. Patrick Wilson delivers a worthwhile finale to a 13-year series and leaves his mark as a director with character moments and scares that are totally his. For this being his feature debut, that’s a mighty job well done.
With another killer score from series composer Joseph Bishara, some visually inventive scares from Patrick Wilson and cinematographer Autumn Eakin, and more of the Lipstick Demon being his usual creepy self, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would walk away really disappointed from Insidious: The Red Door. The film delivers what was promised. It’s a solid ending that serves the franchise’s signature terror with a side of wholesome family drama. The final image before the cut to credits encapsulates this excellently, letting fans know that Insidious went out with tons of heart and just enough style. Above all else, the end of Insidious came with some dignity. We’ll miss you Darth Maul face!