Insidious: The Red Door is a better-than-expected fifth entry of the atmospheric horror series. Back in the day, a dreaded “V” in a horror title was bound to disappoint. (Examples include Friday the 13’s A New Beginning and that weird cult retconning in Halloween: The Revenge Michael Meyers). Thankfully, Blumhouse didn’t include the cursed numeral. Though not as strong as this year’s Evil Dead Rise, the Patrick Wilson-directed return to the Further, like the latest Deadite tale, adds just enough new while faithfully returning James Wan’s pre-Conjuring universe back to the beginning.
Since it’s been six years since Insidious: The Last Key, a prequel to a prequel, the opening is, essentially, “previously on Insidious…” but regarding 2013’s Insidious: Chapter 2 (Sadly, there is no cheesy voiceover à la ABC’s Lost.) The last time we hung out with the astral projection-inclined Lambert family, both father Josh (Wilson) and his oldest son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) had their memories repressed. Nine years later, Josh and Renai (Rose Byrne, in more or a less a cameo) reunite at his mother’s funeral. Soon enough, Dalton is college bound. And then stuff gets weird… again!
The script by Scott Teems (with a co-story by credit for series creator and Wan’s pal Leigh Whannell) fares much better than his previous Blumhouse flicks, Firestarter and Halloween Kills. However, it’s not as fun as last year’s interactive slasher game, Supermassive’s The Quarry (which, funny enough, starred Insidious vet Lin Shaye). With that said, like Pixar’s masterpiece, Coco, the focus is on the generational trauma passed down from parent to child. And just like that, I’ve fulfilled my lifelong dream of comparing Pixar to a disturbing horror film.
Casting has always been strong in this series. Newcomer Sinclair Daniel plays Dalton’s roommate Chris at their university dorm and is a terrific addition. Straddling the line between “the newbie who’s never heard of the Further” and comedic relief is no easy task. Too many jokes, and we’re in fourth-wall-breaking Scream territory. Fortunately, Daniel is a delight. As Dalton struggles with a painting that’s terrifying him to complete, Chris struggles to keep him (and, by extension, the audience) grounded as some of the more offbeat beats moments of wickedness pop up.
Of course, the key to any successful horror experience is sound. The low booms and the use of notable sound gaps are particularly effective. Less effective is the use of one too many jump scares, although, as a rule, jump scares are very much a “works or doesn’t” thing, so one’s mileage may vary. The muted look, a just out-of-focus being, and the color red are all staples of this series, and they still work.
Insidious: The Red Door is a welcome return to form for the series. If it’s the end of the franchise (at least for now, as Blumhouse’s Jason Blum has suggested), it’s a creepy, emotionally rewarding way to go. The Further tip toed back for a few more scares, and it was worth it.